The last five weeks have been interesting. I find myself ruminating and writing on the state of the world, and wondering what will change and what will remain the same post-pandemic. I also find myself reading a lot of music biographies, most recently one about Led Zeppelin.
When John Bonham died, Led Zeppelin died with him. There were fits and starts after that — a benefit concert here and there with Phil Collins or Jason Bonham sitting in — but it was never the same. Phil’s a good drummer, but he lacks that “invisible touch.”
The ad business also won’t be the same post-pandemic.
Things changed overnight. Media consumption has changed. TV viewership is up, even if the shows are still pretty much left over from pre-COVID production. Online video is way up (again). Podcast listenership is probably stable, since people aren’t commuting, but they have more time at home.
Newspapers and out-of-home? Those are two areas where I can’t see a lot of opportunity right now. Newspapers rely on people going to work, walking past newsstands and engaging in traditional ways. Out-of-home is going to get clobbered, as fewer people are in their cars, going to work. Business travel is dead for now, so airport ads are ineffective. This is another watershed moment for digital, as users are forced to be online and are therefore surrounded by digital ads.
Big disruption creates revolutionary change. Jimmy Page was great as a guitar player and producer, but until the Yardbirds broke up and he was forced to find a new band, he didn’t come across a new set of mates to help him realize and expand beyond his initial vision. Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones were his musical companions and complementary pieces, if not always the best of friends.
COVID-19 is a big disruption, but does it create opportunity for companies other than Google, Facebook, Amazon, AT&T and Verizon? Does it do more to disrupt the way the digital ad business runs, or does it simply strengthen and perpetuate the way things were headed?
These five companies were poised to dominate the digital landscape for years to come, since they are the holders of first-party data. Third-party data is dying, but does COVID put the nail in the coffin, or is this an opportunity for new channels to shine? Is the digital, home-based lifestyle a boon for delivery services and a death knell for the gig economy? What are the long-lasting implications of the virus on how we interact, how we socialize and how we consumer digital media? Will our kids become digital-centric in all of their socializing now as a result? They may have been addicted to their screens before, but what about this new paradigm?
We live in a world where guitars are secondary to computers when it comes to making music. Jimmy Page is still revered by one generation while being unknown to another.
The next 30 years will see books written about this time. There will be stories of the lost generation — the group who lost a year of their education, sports and traditional social activity.
What will the story be written about the advertising industry? Will TV make a comeback? Will digital continue to attain its dominance? These are the things I think about these days. What do you think?
In the meantime, I’m going to go listen to “Physical Graffiti” again, and remember a simpler time.