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Influx’s 8 preoccupations for 2008

December 29, 2007

I am not going to try and match JWT’s list of 80 things, but here are 8 things that I believe will be preoccupying our minds in 08.

1.Slowdown?

The terrible “R” word is everywhere, with Wall Street looking nervously at every seemingly contradictory figure. It’s clear there are massive issues with housing and personal debt doesn’t look so great. The impact on communication spend is obvious and it looks like its time for people to dust off all those famous papers and books about the importance of brands spending during a downturn.

2.Attention Spikes

It’s now clear that agencies are competing on something of a level playing field in the war for attention. They don’t have the luxury of just hoping to be best ad in the pod or best in the break; it’s now about the most viral idea of the moment on any medium. It’s now clear that television isn’t the only way to do this. This year, Fallon’s Gorilla for Cadbury and Crispin’s Whopper Freakout showed us how.

Interestingly, although the campaigns had similar goals to spike attention, they approached it in very different ways. Fallon went all out for entertainment based on the strategic premise of joy and Crispin integrated the product into the heart of the idea.

Look for more of this type of thinking in 08; more media neutral ideas, more shock, and more entertainment from brands looking for attention.

3.Brands and The Social Network

The role of brands is the big question hanging over Facebook and all its competitors. It’s clear that advertising can and will continue to exist on these platforms in the form of links and banners, but the networks are promising brands an opportunity to be a part of the conversation. Certainly, there will be opportunities for the right brand, if the product is interesting and relevant enough.

There are two viable routes currently open:

a.To build or buy an application that adds tremendous value to the community and is discretely branded
b.To create a brand page that offers content to fans that is unavailable anywhere else on the Internet.

Brands will be trying feverishly to crack the code on both these areas in 08.

4.Collaboration

Collaboration will be the word of 08, with more layers of complexity being added to communication plans everyday, collaboration has become an essential component of success. It’s no longer possible for a duo of authors to crack the code on everything. Success will come to those who turn collaboration into an art, seamlessly blending media, creative thinking, digital outside partners and clients into the mix. This is all about culture and the willingness to learn and experiment.

Black Swan thinking is required.

5.The Digital Holy Grail

With content being unleashed and re-distributed across the internet, banners seemingly becoming less effective and all the questions about pre-roll, it’s unclear exactly what options brands have on the web. The build your own big website and expect people to visit theory isn’t necessarily a winner, unless you can do something interesting with it. It’s clear that those brands that are “Attention Spiking” should have a digital component to their efforts and then there’s the whole idea of Brand Utility.

How can a brand build something that helps people out in a way that they aren’t being helped already? 

This is the Holy Grail and something that requires an incredible force of thinking.

6.Environmentalism is Dead

It’s clear the issue of the environment is now mainstream, but the big question is what happens next? It’s likely that the biggest problem is going to come from separating the fact from the fiction. The more consumers and industry learn, the more complex the questions become and it’s not always clear what solutions are best or better.

The uncertainty will have a damaging impact on the issue with consumers and brands feeling paralyzed over choices.

The next phase of the environmental movement will revolve around the establishment of standards and practices that gain widespread acceptance.

We’ve already seen some of the impact things like LEED standards for buildings can have and we are starting to see carbon audits developing to a point where they can become standardized. 2008 will be a tricky year for those looking to push green credentials for all the reasons listed above.

The smartest brands will be looking to do two things this coming year:

a.    Take real action-do things that are measurable and have an impact
b.    Look at the issue as one of social responsibility and not just the environment

7.What the Hell Are We Measuring- ROI?

Media measurement has always been a questionable issue ever since the day it was invented. Methodologies and samples have been picked over and analyzed. This is not going away, but as more layers of media get added to the mix, you start to multiply the complexity. This issue is far from being solved and the conversation keeps changing, often to the benefit of the media owner. Surely, brands spending billions of dollars a year on communication should understand what’s working on a cross media basis? Again, this is an area where new standards and new tools are urgently needed and we are likely to see the emergence of some in 2008.

Interestingly, many of these will be proprietary, as global agencies and clients use their muscle to build their own, instead of waiting for industry bodies and research houses to get up to speed.

8. A Year for Mobile

The success of the iPhone in 07 showed everyone a new vision for the mobile device. Elegant, simple and designed with the user in mind, it gave everyone the chance to see a future where television, video, The Internet and location specific information could be used on a mobile device. 2008 will see Apple build upon this with a 3G version of the phone that offers high-speed access and GPS functionality. The race is now on to develop mobile applications for brands that benefit the user. The issue isn’t too different from the Social Network, privacy and personal space are of critical importance in the mobile environment and brands will abuse that at their peril.

Clearly, there’s massive appeal for location-specific applications that link brands to users and perhaps their social network as well. It’s likely we will see some interesting first moves in this space in 2008 from the fast food chains and the big retail brands. The iTunes, iPhone and Starbucks initiatve in 2007, is a taste of things to come.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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