Disruption! (Or marketing in the early 21st century)

The TV series Mad Men has done a lot of crystallize the public perception of the marketing industry in the past few years, and it probably stereotypes a golden age for the ad men of Madison Avenue in the 1960s. Good looking, martini-chugging, fast talking, and a world dominated by creativity; where the great copywriters became great authors and the great TV ad men became great film directors.

The reality of the challenges perceived by people in marketing departments today seems somewhat more prosaic; according to research amongst a substantial number of Chief Marketing Officers conducted by IBM, the main sources of concern for CMOs are:

– the explosion of data available (without necessarily the tools or the skills to analyse it)
– the explosion of social media and the changing ways in which Facebook, Twitter and the rest allow customers and clients to interact with and change expectations of organisations
– the growth of channels and device choices for consumers to access media
– and the rapid shifts in consumer demographics

Within that context, CMOs are looking to see how they can get to know their customers and clients at a more individual level, to connect with those customers in ways in which the customers see as valuable, and to do all of that whilst being able to show how marketing activities are effective in returning on their investment. A long way, it would seem to me, from the heights of the Madison Avenue dream, although the battle between creative-led and metric-led marketing and advertising as been around for as long as the industry itself.

I’ve been speaking with people from various parts of the marketing industry over the past few months, and it’s becoming clear to me that it’s an world experiencing significant disruption. There was a hierarchy of agencies involved in the creative concept, strategy, planning and execution of marketing and advertising activity, and that that was often based around different media and activities (TV, press, events and so on); these days, everyone (it seems) claims to be involved in digital and social marketing, and those channels themselves tie different marketing activities together in ways that were never seen in traditional media.

But the web has also meant that departments other than the Marketing department are engaging with agencies in the marketing world to deliver online and mobile app services: particularly in the Media and Retail sectors, spend on “digital” is likely to be controlled outside of the Marketing department as online and mobile form just another set of channels to market. It’s akin, I suppose, to the way in which Cloud and Consumerisation are decentralising IT spend away from the IT Department in many organisations, and is obviously putting pressure on CMOs as a result. There has been talk this year about how the CMO might end up with more control over technology spend than the CIO – there’s an alternative take that might be that both find themselves disenfranchised within organisations as other departments make spending decisions autonomously.

The Web and Mobile also put pressure onto existing business models in the marketing world – just as they have on many parts of the media industry. The growth first of web and now of Apps gives brands the opportunity to go directly to consumers, bypassing the traditional gatekeepers of communication – broadcasters, publishers, and the resellers of their advertising space the Media agencies. It’s also notable that in the UK “digital” now forms the biggest single advertising channel in the UK (worth more than TV advertising or Press advertising these days), but that nearly 60% of digital advertising is search – which often again bypasses the traditional media advertising providers.

It’s hardly surprising to hear that an industry has been disrupted by the rapid expansion of consumer technology and the web – in fact, it is way more surprising for me to hear about industries that have stayed the same in the last decade. How the industry reacts and reforms itself in the coming years is going to be the interesting bit…

3 thoughts on “Disruption! (Or marketing in the early 21st century)

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