By Cary Hatch, President/CEO, MDB Communications
This is a game of last man standing. Let’s call it what it is.
As an advertising veteran of four economic downturns, I have all the scar-tissue that comes with it – but also the lessons; many of which I’m sure you may find helpful as well. While this recession seems different – both in the duration, depth and the sea change of technology—one aspect remains consistent. The “winners” will be those who exhibit tenacity, balanced-reasoning and optimism in the role marketing plays to advance brands, and that we are an integral part of the global economic engine.
Not unlike the doubt that permeated previous “Ad Men” during the revolutions of radio and TV, we have to reassess our role – indeed our validity – in providing value to our clients. Clients certainly are! This kind of mature self-evaluation and willingness to evolve our position in the marketing chain of command is the true “life-skill” needed to assure a more valued station in our professional future.
All of this economic (and emotional) turmoil comes with its own doubt and uncertainty – wreaking havoc in what has otherwise been a cocky self-confidence in our industry for the past two decades. We’ve heard our colleagues continue to doubt the importance of online advertising, the functional role of experiential marketing and the velocity of ideas needed to satisfy ever-accelerating client demands. Enough! As ADWEEK has trumpeted for months – “This IS the New Normal”; get used to it.
In addition to this philosophical “go forward” posture; there remain three certain recession corollaries to success as a business: Smart cash (and risk) management, securing (and retaining) talent and thoughtfully “forward” investing in the things that can serve you, your clients and your company well. People, technology and advancing the profile of your firm. For in the end, when all the accounting is done, the winners who rise from the economic ashes are those who are smart enough to do what needs to be done (like it or not) and still come in every day knowing that this cannot last forever, and advancing and modifying the agency to reflect future needs, not past agency models.
For optimists this presents uncommon opportunity. This is a great time to be in advertising. Nothing but opportunity looms before us. This is a business that is only successful if it adapts to the way people communicate. Those who adapt will be successful. Traditionally, companies ran advertising and expected people to come to them. This is still true for a large segment of the population. But new audiences for messaging see the world differently. They're cynical about advertising, unless it comes to them in a way they can share and pass on. They post and text about things they think are interesting. They share things they like, believe in and trust. Now, advertising has to go to the people to be successful. It must engage socially. That's the future.