That is how long the entire agency business lives in denial after being informed, politely but firmly, that it is living on borrowed time. Nine and a half years! That’s how long it took Voyager 2 to get to Uranus. That’s how long it took the military to catch Osama bin Laden. And that's how long it took for one single holding company to come to grips with reality. Meantime, industrywide: nearly a decade of arrogance, lip service and disservice to clients and shareholders while clinging stubbornly to a doomed status quo.
Finally, with last week's announcement of a deal between Publicis Groupe and Adobe for integrated data management on a Global Marketing Platform, somebody shows signs of reckoning with reality. Usually when I quote press releases, it is to make fun of somebody, but not this time:
Available to all agencies in the Publicis Groupe network, the platform will be anchored in VivaKi as an open framework so that every agency can deploy and brand it uniquely for use. Agencies currently slated to access the system include BBH, DigitasLBi, Leo Burnett, MSLGROUP, Publicis Worldwide, Razorfish, Rosetta, Saatchi & Saatchi, Starcom MediaVest Group, VivaKi and ZenithOptimedia.
The collaboration is expected to drive growth across the two companies, and accelerate Publicis Groupe’s goal to make combined digital and emerging market revenue 75 percent of its multi-billion dollar business by 2018.
People are fully [digitally] empowered to escape the messages and content we craft for them. They carry screens and devices with them on their daily journey, and they move fluidly from one to the next with complete disregard to what marketers are trying to tell them. In this new world we need to win the attention of consumers. We can’t disrupt their day or broadcast to them anymore. We need to respect them and engage them. This requires a deep understanding of what they are seeking, when they are receptive to our messages, and when they are not. The rules and assumptions that defined the marketing industry for decades are completely rewritten.
Well, duh. But recognition is better late than never. As if to punctuate the state of chaos occasioning the partnership, Adobe released a report (prepared with the Dublin-based anti-ad-blocking PageFair) titled “Adblocking Goes Mainstream.” It reports that ad-blocking software, chiefly that integrated into Google Chrome, has increased penetration by 69% in the past year and now is employed by 4.9% of all Internet users worldwide. Oh, and a disproportionate percentage of them are 18-29 years old.
None of this is a surprise to me. I haven’t shut up about it in my columns since 2005 (see “politely but firmly”) hyperlink above) and have devoted two books to documenting (2009) and dealing with (2013) the “Chaos Scenario.” What has astonished me is the degree to which agencies have tried to conduct business as usual. As recently as a year ago, in this space, I quoted the global creative chief of a major agency network telling me that it's all about the “storytelling.”
I suggested that people were DVRing right past his stories, and he should be trying to cultivate individual relationships at scale. He was unpersuaded. When he complained about competition from other agencies, I replied: “In my view, you should be worrying more about SAP, Adobe and Salesforce.com.”
It would be a good story to tell this week if his network were part of Publicis Groupe. Alas, it belongs to another holding company. Which means what it is part of, along with scores of other advertising agencies, is the problem.