by Mike Cooper
Worldwide CEO, PHD

The year ahead presents numerous challenges for the business of media, brought about by the evolution of technology, agency operating models, required skill-sets, and how we combine big data with creativity, to name just a few of the disruptive influences we currently face.

However, as an industry, we are nothing if not adaptable. We will always have the ability to face-up to the speed of progress, so long as we keep consumer behavioural insights front-of-mind as we confront what the future holds.

Everything must start with the consumer

It’s vital that, on behalf of clients, not only are we the ‘sense-makers’ of new technology, but we also understand people holistically. We need to be experts at what truly motivates them – rather than just how they behave online.

Everything must start with the consumer. Changing consumer tastes and how their attitudes towards brands develop will determine the future direction this media landscape takes.

According to an Oracle Retail 2025 Study, published in March 2017, consumers currently have a rather conservative appetite for technologies that require deep personal data and make decisions on their behalf.

In this environment therefore, we need to help brands focus on building a strong foundation to win consumer trust and establish a more meaningful role in people’s daily lives, as these technologies become more prevalent in both retail and brand communications.

Currently, people are more willing to engage brands with new technology if they feel that they’re in control of the experience. If brands push too far ahead of the disruptive curve however, the reaction can be visceral.

For example, according to Oracle Retail, 58% of consumers indicate a positive attitude towards the idea of having their grocer suggest a shopping list for their approval based on purchase history, social and environmental data. But 54% indicate that having a grocer automatically charge and ship items based on purchase history, social and environmental data is currently considered invasive.

Having a consistent global understanding of where media sits on this evolutionary curve of customer behaviour is therefore vital.

Talent retention and diversification 

We believe that in 2018, strategic communications planning will have an even more important role to play in the client marketing mix, due to the increasing fragmentation and complexity across all media channels.

We have a unique capability to provide solutions driven by both data and creativity. We just need to find more ways to attract the right talent, in order to ensure this ability grows, alongside the demand for more sophisticated storytelling.

Part of this new talent will include a new breed of cognitive consultants, responsible for knowledge management and keeping ahead of these ever-changing consumer trends – such as the extension of e-commerce into video, hearables, and mixed reality. They will require the ability to adapt at speed and work across individual sector specialists.

The role of the agency strategist will also need to diversify to become more consultative so that they can keep clients informed of the great many opportunities that exist.

This new strategist will further need to advise on areas such as asset management, investment planning and the new possibilities for brand expression.

The role of the creative will also evolve, alongside the potential for programmatic brand expression. It will be even more important than ever before for us to work closely with creative agencies.

The importance of creative and technology

The challenge and opportunity in programmatic will come from two key areas – the expansion of algorithmic trading and targeting into other traditional media, and the ever-closer relationship of data with creative.

As more media becomes addressable (programmatic moving into outdoor, audio and eventually TV), the potential to marry adept use of data in targeting and optimisation with creative expression will increase.

But first, we have to work with clients to establish new processes and ways of working as we enter a new era of data privacy, advanced algorithms, faster processing and AI-fueled communications intelligence.

It will be important to always identify where to apply the creative human touch in this increasingly automated world and to listen to clients’ needs as disruption sweeps through an increasing number of industry sectors.

Clients need good counsel, unbiased advice and a global perspective in this complicated world.

If we can achieve this, while evolving our internal operations for new media frontiers, we’ll continue to be the best that we can be.

This article formed part of ‘PHD Perspectives’, click this link to read the full publication