Shaping the agency of the future

19 Nov 2018  |  Paul Mead 
Shaping the agency of the future

A delegation of agency bosses has just returned from a trade mission to the US. Here, Paul Mead reports back on what the tech titans are up to.

Earlier this month I left a cloudy London for Silicon Valley, San Francisco and LA as part of a government and IPA trade mission. Our UK delegation spent time with Google, Facebook and Amazon. With start-ups in the valley. With immersive technology companies like IMLxLab, Dreamscape and Framestore. With original content studios like Apple, NBC Snap and with technologies genuinely changing the future like Hyperloop.

A few things stood out for me:

Millenial Moment. The world’s 2bn millennials are coming of age and entering their peak period of economic impact. Their behaviour is radically different. They choose different brands for different reasons. They want to discover those brands authentically in their world (creators / influencers / social) not through traditional advertising. Their media consumption is radically different. These ‘screenagers’ are light TV viewers, they are ad blockers, they spend their time in ad free environments like Netflix. Without the right approach brands risk ‘dad dancing’ into this world.

Generational Generosity. Get it right and this is an audience that can exhibit extraordinary generosity towards the things they care about. YouTube news channel TYT put out a request to its audience for help building a studio. They raised $500,000 USD. They put out a second call to hire investigative journalists and raised $2m USD.

On gaming platform Twitch, the generosity of millennials donating to support their favourite creators is a key revenue stream. Money can flow in less transactional ways than we expect.

New Appointment to View. Shared experiences still matter. We’re seeing a return to scheduling and appointment to view in an on demand world. On Amazon owned Twitch the gaming community gets together to watch shows like Doctor Who collectively in ‘TV marathons’ and there are more scheduled, episodic and live streamed shows across all the social platforms. Creating a moment in time that is shared collectively has lost none of its power.

The Immersive Web. There are big bets being made on the next phase of the web. Google Daydream, the next generation of VR headsets, Magic Leap One and Oculus Quest. Google and Apple with ARCore and ARkit respectively opening up huge possibilities in AR with genuinely disruptive applications in both B2B and B2C.

Voice has been talked about as the next big thing but it’s a mistake to think about modular strategies. Only through layering these experiences – for example combining screen and voice – so called ‘multi-modal moments’ can we deliver truly impactful user experiences. It’s an incredibly rich creative palette but the challenge to brands and agencies is that it requires a new set of technical as well as creative skills.

Real World Connectivity. Amazon + Google Lens are like browsers for the real world, recognising places, products – even plant species. We are increasingly seeing the lines blurred between online and offline experiences. Start-up Xperiel is looking to create an ambitious ‘real world web’ making the physical world digitally interactive and offering more immersive ad experiences anywhere from in game to in stadia. Blockchain could support a new universal ID that enables us to synchronise experiences seamlessly from devices to stores and theoretically to connect walled garden IDs.

Attention aggregators With Warner Media, Disney and Apple all launching new SVOD services next year in an effort to compete with Netflix and Amazon there will be even more reasons to cut the cord. Gaming has gone from sub-culture to pop culture.

Twitch calls itself a ‘multiplayer entertainment platform’, runs cookery shows, karaoke and has even moved to broadcasting Thursday night football with creators as commentators. Disney has taken esports to primetime TV, broadcasting Blizzards Overwatch League live on ESPNs main sports channel at 7pm on Friday evenings. The eyeballs are shifting.

Exploiting Ecosystems. Google, Facebook and Amazon have become so dominant that we need to consider each of them as a connected ecosystem. To realise their potential requires moving away from one dimensional thinking around search, social, display or ecommerce.

On Amazon, brands can drive new behaviours by building skills for Alexa, owning ‘utterances’, connecting this with entertainment, ecommerce and advertising across Amazon Ads both natively and across the web using all the depth of the Amazon data set (43,000 targeting segments in UK).

Messaging provides new ways for brands to connect directly with audiences. Whatsapp launch their status ads in the New Year alongside a new SMB product and micropayment platform. We can learn from China on the potential of such applications.

I’ve had to summarise brutally. Some of these trends may feel disparate. But they are all connected.

Technology is shaped by human behaviour. And our behaviour is being shaped by technology.

How will agencies respond to these new behaviours and new technologies?

We still define agencies by the discipline or channels on which they focus.

That feels outdated.

Perhaps we will increasingly distinguish between the disruptors and the disrupted.

Between those in this world - with the understanding, creativity, scale and depth of technical expertise - and those outside, operating in a more traditional sphere that will inevitably keep on turning for some time to come.


Paul Mead is Executive Board Director, Jellyfish

To hear more insights into the key US tech trends and companies join some of Mission’s agency-head delegates at the IPA’s upcoming event on 5 December: Keeping ahead of the tech curve . Free to members.

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