Fast Times At Digital High

by , Jun 21, 2007, 6:00 AM
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Digital media is on fire! In fact, if it's news to you that our industry is in an uber-evolutionary state, then you're in the wrong business. Marketers and agencies are obviously still trying to figure out how to harness the fruits of our digital evolutionary labor. But there's just something so exciting about blazing new trails.

I've been saying that the lines between marketing and media have been blurring for some time now. But we're way beyond that--everything is blurring. It's as if every time we stop to take the pulse of the landscape, it's a new landscape--at least on a macro level. Media and technology, marketing and media, buyers and sellers, traditional media and new media--they are all blurring. The landscape itself is blurring past us, and technology and data continue to be the main differentiator between traditional and new media.

The big media companies and agency holding companies are consolidating faster than we can keep up with. Google's acquisition of FeedBurner--and of course, more notably, DoubleClick--Microsoft and aQuantive, WPP and 24/7, Yahoo and Right Media, Publicis and Digitas--and that's just the last 60 days!

What Does It All Mean?

The infrastructure associated with the consolidation is necessary to support the growing industry, but will it stifle innovation? I don't think so. The question isn't if there will be continued innovation, but where it will come from. In an industry that developed through the innovations of small, young, nimble and energetic companies, the recent maturation and multibillion-dollar consolidation has actually created a new generation of innovators.

Innovation will take a two-pronged evolutionary path itself, both within the large technologically rich and data infused entities that are emerging as our generation's media giants, as well as throughout an industry still bursting with nimble and progressive independents vying for the next round of consumer attention and the associated profit potential.

The climate is ripe for the new media behemoths to leverage their acquired technologies, data assets and marketing services to develop enhanced targeting, ad serving, analytics, and general efficiencies in the process of communicating with, engaging and influencing consumers. After all, they are positioned to grow from each percentage of the market they can acquire through these developments.

Conversely, the smaller independent companies--which once dominated the landscape by breaking the old ground rules and establishing the new ones--will develop new technologies, tools and processes that plug into various aspects across the spectrum of what media is becoming, which is now also beginning to blur across the lines of traditional and digital channels.

The Talent Pool

Moving in synch with the breakneck pace of the growth and progression of how consumers are engaging with content, brands and commerce requires the need for specialized talent to develop and manage marketers' responses to these trends. There has never been a better time to be in the market for a digital media or marketing position.

It seems that we have begun to overcome the talent shortage created by the down-market in the early part of the decade, when many flocked outside of the industry due to massive downsizing after the dot-com bubble burst. The current expanded talent pool has started to accrue the experience and necessary skills and mindset to fill the void in the middle of the market.

It feels like just a year to 18 months ago there were very few appropriately aligned recruits for any roles other than entry-level or senior-level positions. The pleasant change has also created a new surge of interviews and career shifting, which is ingrained in today's talent market. Firms that can retain top talent by creating exciting and progressive environments will trump all others in this regard. Nobody said it would be easy!

The Generational Divide

Does today's executive understand tomorrow's digital consumer? Does today's executive understand tomorrow's employee? Tomorrow's consumer and employee have become today's consumer and employee very quickly.

As the first phase of online veterans have been making their way into senior-level client and agency-side marketing roles, the sophistication level of the initiatives are improving, and data and technology are being leveraged as the key assets that they always have been. The perceptual restrictions or limitations that prevented industry leading clients from embracing emerging channels and truly following consumer trends in the past are waning fast.

Although studies still highlight the disparity between the pace of evolution of the very technology developed to service us and streamline our communication and productivity, and the pace of adoption and ability en masse to efficiently use these tools, today's consumer and employee keep up with the pace quite well.

In other words--we are prepared for the blurring of everything. Bring it on!

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