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Prediction: Major Ad Agency Stumbles in 2007

I was asked to contribute a prediction of a major event in the coming year that is based upon my observations of evolving trends, and submit it for inclusion in the book Happy About Knowing What to Expect in 2007.

Unlike prior years, I submitted only one prediction because I believe that all others I considered truly pale in comparison. The following is my contribution.
"The notion of a mass-market is finally laid to rest, as marketers uncover effective ways to reach clusters of individual consumers that have similar lifestyles, interests and behaviors. At least one big multinational ad agency will fail to evolve, by embracing this transformation. As a result, they will be disregarded as fossils from a bygone era."

Now, before I receive angry emails from the folks at Omnicom Group or Publicis Groupe, please let me explain two things before anyone jumps to conclusions. First, I didn't have a specific multinational ad agency firm in mind when I wrote my prediction. Second, I am not implying that failure means anything more than 'lacking relevance' -- granted, that alone may lead to other repercussions. However, I did not consider the financial implications, so don't bother asking me to tackle that issue.

So, why choose this one topic, from all the other ones that are top-of-mind? It's about perspective, or the lack thereof. Meaning, ad agencies are still thinking about an 'audience' with readers, listeners and viewers -- essentially, the exploitable model of the last century where 'consumers' are held captive by a limited number of mass-media closed-loop delivery channels -- the print, radio and television.

My point: it's difficult to make the transition to acknowledge the free spirited individual participating in an unlimited number of micro-media interactive open-loop communities of purpose -- the social networks of self-expression. Some legacy ad agencies will be unable to guide their employee populous of 'creatives' along this journey. Frankly, the fundamental need for a traditional agency model may very well be questioned by some forward-looking marketers.

If everyone is ultimately capable of being a co-creator, co-arranger or co-marketer of media content -- with meaningful talent assumed -- then why not take the current multinational agency model to the next level of evolution? Several of the large agency groups are merely aggregations of relatively independent and locally-oriented smaller talent pools. Thoughts of assimilating these entities into some form of corporate Borg has been dismissed by the leaders of these companies.

Therefore, why not engage all potentially qualified creative 'participants' to collaborate on a project -- for isn't this in essence the free spirit, freestyle, and all inclusive freelance world of unlimited micro-media? Ask yourself, is your ad agency prepared to embrace this change in the coming year? And, there you have it.

Note, 85 percent of the contributed predictions were accurate last year. Also, other contributors to this year's book include Jay Conrad Levinson, Patricia Seybold, Jim Sterne, and Amy D. Wohl. You may purchase online the paperback version of the book, at a 50 percent discount.

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