Digital is everything. That is the conversation that every marketing, advertising and communications agency needs to be having... today.
The newsfeeds are filled with opinions, perspective and half-truths about the mega-merger of Omnicom and Publicis. Whether you're looking to their corporate speak as to why this merger makes sense, or whether you're listening to the armchair quarterbacks (like me), it's interesting to read between the lines. What is abundantly clear? This is all about the transformation of advertising agency into digital agency. Period. End of sentence.
It's self-serving for me write this (I own an independent digital marketing agency), but it's true. Have you seen any chatter about how much better this merger will be in terms of personalized service to the brands that they serve? Have you read anything about how this merger will make the work more creative for the clients that they serve? Has anyone been talking about the legacy of award-winning work that a combination of Omnicom and Publicis can now bring to make the work that much better for the clients? How about the efficacy of client services and project management to return better work at a more efficient price to the brands? Nothing. It's all about digital. It's all about data. It's all about how the new Publicis Omnicom will compete (or be better frenemies) with the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. How will this new entity leverage all of this data that is being collected to bring better results back to their brands?
We're not in the TV industrial complex anymore, Toto.
The tenants of an advertising agency to work - hand-in-hand - with their clients and provide creative solutions that ultimately increase sales through engines of advertising and engagement feels like small potatoes when you start staring at a Publicis Omnicom in the face. The main thrust of the agencies within these networks is to create ads that get people to buy things. No, we're not completely leaving that terrain for a new terra firma, but it does seem like that this new mega-deal is shrouded in buzzwords that have everything to do with technology and digital, while next-to-nothing in relation to creativity, strategy and insights.
What's your digital plan?
Whether you're a marketing agency or a brand, you're going to have to make some tough decisions in the next few months. These multinational advertising networks hold within their grasp the vast majority of advertising and marketing agencies that the bigger brands use. With it, comes the lion's share of the media dollars as well. They're using words like technology, data and digital, while the more commonly used vernacular of our industry (the creative, advertising, strategy, insights and more) are hardly whispered into the bigger dialogue. On a personal note, Twist Image never truly felt like it was a part of the advertising industry. Back in 2000, when were a handful of people, we were busy hiring programmers and developers to work alongside the creative and client services in the hopes of creating a better result for the brand. We weren't about advertising. We were about business solutions. We knew (and felt) that technology was (and would become) an integral part of how marketing gets created, accounted for and optimized. For over thirteen years, we have been banging this drum, and it has finally started to come to fruition. It seems like Publicis Omnicom sees this as their future as well. Television is becoming more interactive. Newspapers are distributing and monetizing their content in a more fuzzy way (paper, Web, tablet, etc...). Radio is starting to sound a lot more like "audio anywhere" than something relegated to airwaves in a locked geographical position. With it, all of the marketing that surrounds it is adapting as well. Digital channels are being created - each and every day - that offer new ways to connect with consumers. Some of it is a content play, and some of it involves putting an ad around the content. Brands can now leverage a direct relationship with their consumers to really push engagement and a semblance of loyalty.
Disruption is digital.
So, while the disruption may have been crystallized by digital, it's clear that all marketing now needs digital at its core. It may also be true that consumers have (what I call) a digital-first posture, and this means that everything is now digital. Of course, this doesn't diminish the power of the creative or the strategy (quite the contrary... it makes it more important than ever), but it does mean that without data, optimization, iteration and a keen eye on the math and nuances of your marketing performance, that the best creative doesn't even rank on the scale when a merger like Publicis Omnicom happens. And, for my dollar, that says a lot about an industry that is about to be disrupted that much more in the coming years.
It sounds like this merger is all about one thing: digital (ok... maybe money is the real one thing).