As in-store marketing and media gradually increase their profiles to become the centerpiece of many retailers' marketing and brand-building strategies, more retailers are experimenting with digital signage. While it remains challenging to separate the hype from reality in this rapidly evolving industry, massive digital deployments by retail giants like Wal-Mart, Target, and Albertsons have given the nascent medium some much-needed credibility while setting expectations for strong growth in 2006.
The hot topic at the future marketing awards last month revolved around intellectual property. The prospect of creating, contracting, selling, and monetizing intellectual property has agencies buzzing. They recognize that the communications landscape is changing, and they see intellectual property as their path to the future. Declining compensation, tight margins, increased competition, greater demands, and shorter contracts are compelling agencies to seek new revenue streams.
Is marketing abdicating its ownership of marketing accountability? It's starting to seem that way. At the recent Institute for International Research conference on return on marketing investment, virtually the only marketers in attendance were speakers. Nearly all the attendees were either vendors or people from research and finance organizations. Increasingly, I see functions other than marketing taking the lead on accountability.
Every once in a while, Walt Disney teaches us something important. His notion that it's a small world, after all, turns out not only to be true but also to be a key ingredient in smart marketing. As Stanley Milgram discovered in his now-famous 1967 "small world" experiment, two random U.S. citizens are connected by an average chain of six acquaintances.
Media departments have historically had an odd-man-out role within advertising agencies. Once almost invisible in the popular culture's depiction of agency life (who was Darren Stevens' media planner?), communications planning has now taken its rightful place in partnership with the creative product. This makes sense, given the number of communications outlets and the control consumers exercise over their media choices.
As predictably as the sun setting in the west, the big communications companies are going after Google -- from the pulpit and soon enough, the halls of Congress. "Network builders are spending a fortune constructing and maintaining the networks that Google intends to ride on with nothing but cheap servers," is how John Thorne, a Verizon Inc. executive, put it at a conference, as reported by The Washington Post in February. Sites like Google, he continued, are "enjoying a free lunch that should, by any rational account, be the lunch of the facilities providers."
Why do we do research in media? That's what I asked a group of freshly minted media trainees at a seminar last year. Seemed a simple enough question -- until I heard the range of answers that came back at me. "To prove something worked." "To answer a question." "To see if your investment was worth it." "To cover your butt." "To learn something you don't know."
I once mentioned in this column that I have felt like a bit of a media outsider over the course of my career, due to my stubborn insistence on remaining at full-service agencies. One could argue that I've missed out on major opportunities -- like, say, money, fame, and glory -- by not signing on to the media agency rush of the 1990s. I have chosen to see it as conviction, rather than shortsightedness, that kept me close to the creative product, but no doubt many of my peers have disagreed.
According to reports from the recent 3GSM world congress on mobile entertainment in Barcelona, attendees were giddy with talk of delivering original programming via cell phones, a new $50 billion industry. Apparently there are about 2 billion of these tiny screens in the world, which is about double the number of TV households in the globe. Not surprisingly, big-time producers and networks like Disney and Fox were circling like vultures in Barcelona, looking to strike deals with mobile operators like Vodafone and Verizon, essentially hoping to lock up this new industry, as they have already locked up the TV business, …