In 2021, an increasingly fragmented media landscape is leaving many marketers feeling overwhelmed. As the resulting chaos hits bottom lines and limits potential, Adstream’s CMO Oliver Forder explores how we can begin to wrestle back control
The ad industry is no stranger to chaos. Soho, the legendary heart of London’s adland, didn’t earn its manic reputation by accident. There has always been a certain creative spontaneity in our industry; one which is important in a world of tight deadlines and fast-moving culture. The instantaneous nature of great ideas, and their journey to market, can sometimes feel like chaos, but it’s a positive and important part of what makes advertising vibrant, rewarding and exciting.
Many of us still in the industry now will recall how hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of ads used to rattle around in the courier bags of fast-moving, fresh-faced runners, some of whom ended up catching unexpected flights around the world to ensure campaigns were delivered on time. New York, Paris, Buenos Aires and the rest will remember similar ‘good old days’.
But when I say the industry is in chaos today, that’s not the kind of chaos I mean. It’s not the electrifying chaos that sparks ideas and energy in great creative minds (cue intoxicatingly tight production schedule, because that live date isn’t moving). Instead, it’s a stressful, frustrating chaos which undermines bottom lines and stifles creativity.
The chaos we battle today is distinctly data-heavy, which is paradoxical; isn’t the data supposed to make things clearer? It’s arisen from over a decade’s worth of proliferation, to the point where the number of channels now available to marketers is at dizzying levels.
On top of that, spontaneity is weakened when modern media doesn’t operate with the same levels of efficiency as conventional channels. There’s another paradox here, because we expect the cutting-edge digital platforms to enable precision communication at scale and at pace, whereas in fact they often leave many of us pulling our hair out because of the complex and opaque process we need to navigate, platform by platform, to integrate each one successfully into a cross-channel campaign. The promise is seamless efficiency; the reality is disjointed, staccato communications.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The challenges of the modern era are plentiful, but they are far from insurmountable. Our task as marketers can be summed up simply enough: it’s a case of taking back control.
There’s Always Another Variable
To start with, it’s worth exploring where we are at this point. The story of the modern era has been one of fragmentation. Scrupulous brands looking to communicate to large audiences leave no stone unturned – the trouble is that there’s a steady avalanche of new stones falling all the time.
Far from simply couriering over a TV spot, safe in the knowledge that a large audience will see it, the modern marketing landscape is an intricate and complex web of diverse platforms. As well as appealing to a broad audience on TV, for example, there’s every chance the opinion-former you need to speak to can best be found on TikTok or Clubhouse.
With that choice comes challenge. The creative that smashes it on Facebook, for example, isn’t going to yield the same results on Snapchat. Creating more content than ever, in the same timeframe and often on a smaller, or at best a more stretched, budget is a recipe for stress, before you even start to consider the compound interest effect of Dynamic Content Optimisation or Atomic Content Origination.
On a technical level, there are yet more challenges: all of these platforms invariably require different file types and aspect ratios, and they all have different rules around size of file and length of copy. Even setting the (not inconsiderable) potential for human error aside, that’s an intimidating maelstrom of very technical admin that marketers need to master
Then there is the talent and usage rights piece: an area so complex, and one where that complexity is costing brands millions of pounds in fines when they transgress unintentionally because they had no visibility of their position and were given no warning of the danger, that it merits an expose all of its own.
In such an environment, is it any wonder that advertisers feel overwhelmed?
A Blueprint For Control
Despite all of these complex challenges, there’s no need for defeatism. Things are by no means perfect yet, but the intent is good and we’re moving in the right direction. Technological advances have allowed marketers to speak to precisely the audiences they need, at precisely the right moment. Although it is daunting, this abundance of channels provides unprecedented opportunity if you can work out how to use them not only efficiently but also effectively.
Ultimately, it’s a case of achieving visibility. Not for your brand but of your marketing supply chain. That will give you the control you need to improve productivity. If you can get a clear and comprehensive overview of everything you have going on across different brands in different markets, you’ll be well on your way to surmounting the core challenges of the modern marketing era.
Your media options may be fragmented, but your workflows don’t have to be. Marketers should look at how they can connect up all of their existing partners, processes, campaigns and reporting, in a way which is clear and accessible for every stakeholder. Improved productivity will follow naturally when you have visibility of creation, deployment and performance, all in one place.
Our industry is still alive with exciting possibilities for those who can bring them to life and get them in front of the right audience. We have the potential to revive and unleash the right kind of creative chaos once more. The successful marketers of the future will be formulating a plan to do exactly that. And that plan starts with taking back control.