Advertising & media is in unmarked territory

Just last week, I took a look through LinkedIn just to see what’s available in media. I was shocked to see so many art director and media producer positions. At this moment in time, there are hundreds of positions available in agencies just in Toronto alone. Even with coveted names. What’s changed. Lots, and we’re going to talk about it all right here.

I see lots of optimistic posts on LinkedIn, making statements about how media’s so wonderful, how it’s all about adventures, technology, lollipops and gumdrops. While, I believe it’s absolutely wonderful to keep optimistic, simply stating working in media is great without addressing the issues undermining the industry is the primary reason for its decline. Tucking these issues under the rug hoping in due course they will pass or work themselves out, isn’t helping anyone involved. Thing is, if you read my previous post. The pony ride is over. Everyone that’s been involved in the industry the last 20 years, you know, the marketers and creative’s with all the experience. They are now leap frogging their original founders and working direct either in-house or remotely with or for the clientele. What also comes with these former staff, is insider knowledge of all the unspoken politics, problems and concerns that are rampantly occurring in media and advertising right now. Let’s face it, Forbes reports “the old model is imploding”. If you can’t admit that, then you might want to stop reading right here. I may rattle your cage.

Technological Leap Frog
Yeah, technology is awesome. At least for the new players using it correctly. WordPress, Drupal, Shopify, Etsy, these are just a few of the countless platforms that have made it possible for business’s and individuals alike to create websites and free SEO around their brand. Anyone can technically reach their audience digitally. Also no longer is programmatic advertising limited to agencies. Anyone can do this now with a bit of research and trial and error. Google Ads has made data and analytics accessible to all, it’s no longer just agency partners. Adapting to utilize this rather then resist it is key. If your company isn’t creating content that reinforces your industry strengths, you may want to consider it as an organic boost. However programmatic promoting and targeting should be priority. How are you expected to convince clientele to dump a boat-load of cash into the platform if you don’t even use it yourself.

Privacy Concerns
Sadly, in recent years there have been so many data leak’s that consumer behavior is changing. People are more concerned then ever about digital privacy and its links to advertising. If your an android user I’d suggest you have a look at your google activity here. The first time I saw the amount of data being stored about me, I gasped. And this is coming from someone that completely understands how this data is used and mined. Lucky Google allows you to easily delete all that data. Well at least it’s said it’s been deleted. Must be right. Anyway, Apple collects all the same data and has a very similar privacy policy. But I’m not in that specific technology bubble so I can’t speak to the level you are being tracked. But don’t be mislead, you definitely are. They may protect you from “advertisers” getting to your data but they themselves are collecting the data and leveraging it within their own properties. Anyway I’m getting off track, the concerns for consumers with advertising is that it’s using specialized data that could be perceived as invading peoples privacy. Advertisers don’t want to appear at all invasive. So it’s a real double-edged sword. You want to reach the right people but not so accurately that it instills distrust. A return to well thought out creative should overcome these issues in media.

Uncool factor
After a recent lecture given at George Brown, while speaking with the students, it became glaringly clear that ad agencies didn’t have the same luster to them they did when I was studying. Most of the creatives I asked, said they wanted to work for a tech startup or wanted to create they’re own opportunities. Honestly, I can’t blame them. I wish I had founded esprocreative all those years ago myself. This issue isn’t an easy one to tackle either as it’s not as though these students even know yet what the realities are in the industry of creative communications, so their opinions aren’t even biased.

Too much, too little
Too much content, too many distributions, too fragmented.
Too low ratings, too little budget, too small of audience, too few sponsors.
I mean I could really go into detail but I could write an entire article on this point alone. Perhaps at some point I will. I think these two sentences pretty accurately sums up media right now.

Staffing Agencies
While staffing agencies are nothing new, the industries they support have shifted significantly changing how business’s approach finding talent. I myself have worked with staffing agencies. For media it’s impact has been felt. Staffing agencies offer rates to the clients that undercut the actual cost for talent. By doing so, it drives down the industry rates as a whole. Independent creators are now expected to offer rates well below industry standard levels to compete. Fortunately as a result of digital disruption, more publicly available data on these services is creating more transparency among all players involved, whether they like it or not it’s affecting business. With the dirty laundry out for all to see, it’s become a bit of a deterrent for many potentials candidates and employers alike.

Shrinking Budgets
True budgets are shrinking but this comes back to what I mentioned earlier about how all the earlier agency employee are at the forefront command of what use to be clientele businesses. So the budgets are still there, it’s simply that these advertisers are now more wise to the realities and aren’t letting themselves be lead blindly any longer. Transparency is really the only solution here. Real accurate costs with significantly less markup.

Priority (Creative vs Delivery)
I read recently that 20 years ago media agencies were in the business of manufacturing and these days they are primarily focused on distribution. Interpretation: the focus used to be on the creative. Making the creative attractive. Making it witty. Making it resonate with consumers emotions.
These days the industry has become consumed with delivery, reach, impressions, segments, click-through rates. Don’t get me wrong all of these measurements are amazing and provide nothing be intuitive insight into a campaigns performance. But its gotta be said, if you run shit creative, it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is. I predict a return to creative importance will help strengthen media agencies of the future.

Creative Production Shift
As a creative producer, I can vouch that creative intended for HTML5 display advertising and search are being requested less and less. A combination of clutter and digital noise is affecting client strategy but so are changes in consumer behavior. Large multi-product, brand or property companies can not afford to stop utilizing HTML5 banner ads just yet, especially if the target demographic is middle-age or above. While they use mobile devices, often they still prefer a typical laptop or desktop experience and unlike our up-rise of millennial’s they often lack the technical knowledge required for ad blocking. I wouldn’t say the shift has decreased the amount of creative, more switching media types from HTML5 over to video. It’s clear to everyone video is king. For now.

Ad blocking & Transparency
We’ve been talking about this one for a few years now. But now we are really seeing the impact. No ad’s means no money. No money, no content. Which is why, less new production is being created in traditional media, like print (magazines, newspapers), television and even in radio. Creative solutions to reach the consumer in their digital space is taking place. Ad spends are shifting to placements where they are not yet being blocked and where each impression is 100% viewable with transparent bid costs. Vast video pre-rolls, mid-rolls and bumpers for instance or social posts or stories within the major social media giants. All of these are solutions to Ad blocking.

Listen my company functions within the media space. Believe me, I’m learning and adapting just like the rest of you. I’ve invested much time to understand the issues in media so that I can provide the best creative solutions that will be the most effective under these pressures. Luckily my business structure is a sole-proprietorship. If and when I need a assistance, there are dozens of other off-site independent contractors available for partnerships that allow me to have zero on-going overhead. My suggestion for media is to consider options like this. The rigidness of larger corporations is it’s downfall. Each employee having a very specific role and often that leaves everyone fending for themselves and not going above and beyond. Having 6 employees that can all do series of functions, is definitely more effective than having 8 or even 10 that are all doing just their tiny piece. I’d also suggest practicing what you preach. If your selling a media type to your clients but not utilizing it yourself, that doesn’t say much about the media. And of course scale down expenses. Lavish offices are only great if you have clientele there regularly. Otherwise it’s huge overhead to what, save face? I’ve never quite understood beyond ego why more is spent on the offices than the people or promotional material, especially in this new digital age of remote workers.

As we’ve begun to see already, ad & media agencies will continue to cannibalize each other to try to survive. I just hope over time we will be able to keep some diversity. Otherwise we might be eating at Taco bell all day everyday when they win the franchise wars and every restaurant becomes Taco bell.