According to Organic Research, 35 percent of these marketers say they plan to spend less on traditional advertising by 2019 than they did a year ago. If true, the switch would dwarf reductions in digital and social media spending.
Such a scale of retreat by agencies is a worrisome sign. For decades, blue-chip companies have turned to planners and ad agencies to encourage their messaging to be better, more impactful, more marketable. These marketing managers want to tell the stories of products and services to millions of consumers rather than dozens of employees.
In part, such thinking owes to an awareness of the global economic upheaval, which has thrown millions of people into economic hardship. Consumers have less disposable income than ever before. Product choices are more limited and consumers appear to hold marketing agencies in little regard. Traditional marketers seem impervious to the consequences of a world divided between high- and low-income groups, and spent more than ever to figure out how to reach these consumers.
Brands are fundamentally marketing. The brand allows consumers to feel part of something big. This requires communications as powerful as personal relationships. If the message is not received by consumers, it doesn’t happen.
Certainly, corporations have more to lose from a disconnect between their marketing and consumers’ responses than consumers have to gain from poor strategy or execution. But if consumer responsiveness is not up to par, companies spend billions of dollars over multiple generations to acquire strategic advantages over competitors. For most companies, large and small, the stakes are high, and the trend toward decreased importance of traditional agencies is alarming.
Does declining connection account for the state of conversation? Is the message no longer making it through to consumers? Does it even matter?
I believe it does.
Authenticity is the next crucial innovation in marketing. Deeply rooted economic insecurity drives people to strive for better social conditions. Those of us in the ad industry can’t afford to remain detached from this reality. We need to listen to consumers and offer thoughtfully constructed, authentic messages. For that reason, we may actually be seeing the death of traditional advertising.
In a creative industry filled with agency founders who launched their businesses by applying some of the ideas pioneered by social media pioneers like Joel Johnson, we should double down on connecting with the right people at the right time, using the latest marketing and creative solutions. Our basic business will continue to struggle, so we need to continue to innovate our core models. The technology of the 21st century will allow us to reach the right consumers more effectively than ever before.
For many consumers, buzzwords such as contextual and contextual relevance will be seen as new advertising vehicles. Our current advertising models likely won’t work for this new subset of consumers who consider themselves digital natives and possess a powerful array of tech capabilities. These consumers will only accept stories that speak to them through specific context.
Technology and media have changed the way we sell, the way we market and the way we build trust. We are reaching consumers everywhere and talking to them all the time—with and about themselves. It is up to us to attract the attention of consumers, so they can feel the influence of what we are selling.