Gestalt: Out From the Ashes

Gestalt: Out From the Ashes-Chris SchroederBy the time you read this, you will know the answer to two of possibly the most important questions of our age: Is our economy holding, and which presidential candidate will have to deal with whatever is left? Writing now, amidst the debate over the character implications of moose-killing and the endless SNL impersonations, it's sometimes hard to realize that our entire financial and economic infrastructure is facing a meltdown our generation has never seen - one that is utterly global in impact.

However, given that our mandate is the media and marketing world, I will spare you my ravings and focus instead on the ramifications of a few of what historically have been the best ad sectors (and the leaders online).

The financial sector is in a perfect storm of ramifications. Many major investment institutions and banks have already been sold or consolidated, while others have simply gone belly-up. Real estate prices have also continued to fall, making many pieces of commercial and private real estate worth less than their mortgages. Obviously, this is not good for advertising. The impact on financial-institutional advertising, branding and lead-generation, and classifieds associated with financing a home or a car will, you guessed it, be dramatic.

Auto, in fact, is in a tailspin - another perfect storm of major U.S. manufactures caught with too many gas-guzzling SUVs, a rise of interest rates, gas prices and unemployment, and a credit crunch that makes financing cars as easy as passing a camel through the eye of a needle. Imagine what being in a tailspin during a storm while trying to lead a camel through the eye of a needle does to your advertising: Auto manufacturers simply have fewer ad dollars, and dealerships have even less.

For a while, a low-value dollar brought hope to the worlds of travel and hotels, online and offline, as foreigners flooded Fifth Avenue, making up for the precipitous decline in U.S. travel. However, it seems not even the new window display at Bergdorf is worth crossing the Atlantic for anymore: A friend who is a senior executive in the online travel world told me this week that for the first time, they are seeing a great drop in their significant European business. Net impact: advertising down.

Pharmaceutical, entertainment, music, even technology itself - all with great pressure on margins - are waiting to see where the economy is going and what a new legislative and regulatory world in Washington will bring. The future of DTC health advertising, how DC treats behavioral targeting, where the fed should come down on Net neutrality - all of these issues will be taken up in a new and uncertain year.

Wait, don't jump!

In all this turbulence there lies potential for unprecedented opportunity and change in the entire face of marketing.

Sectors under pressure are forced to become more disciplined. The need to find and usefully serve individuals, to spend dollars with greater efficiency, and to know with precision the return on that investment is now utterly necessary. And this necessity may bring with it the interactive revolution that technology and interactive advertising have been offering, but which has so far been only timidly accepted by marketers.

In all this uncertainty, the audience shift to interactive continues at a breathless pace. Traditional advertising is chasing audiences who are voting with their feet, and it's relying on technologies that are ceasing to exist. Social media, at the moment mocked as an advertising vehicle, aggregates the largest and most passionate groups of consumers, audiences only the interactive world can deliver. Phones are for your grandmother and she will be dead soon: Mobile computing devices are now in everyone's back pockets, and so are your ads.

Our nation and our economy are, for all their current turmoil, built on remarkable innovation and optimism and the ability to muscle through challenges. And if history has shown anything, it's that even in our darkest moments, great innovation offers great opportunity to benefit consumers and marketers alike. And in our darkest moments, people can finally shift old behaviors to new ones, because the cost of change is less than the cost of staying the same. And this is coming from a Republican.
Next story loading loading..