The very definition of marketing has been morphing for years now, altered by a series of game-changing forces. First, the rise of digital brought a shift from messaging to brand utility. With social media came an increased focus on creating content and conversations. Now, in 2014, technology that bridges the digital and physical seems poised to be the next game changer for brands.
According to the many advertising leaders we surveyed, connected devices and wearable technology—or, more broadly, the Internet of things—are top of mind for 2014. But where the last decade of digital experimentation has generally made technology front and center of an experience, the feeling is that the general relationship with technology has now matured to a point where it doesn’t need to be the star of the show. Instead, people are predicting a more seamless integration of technology into brand’s efforts. Or, as Scott Prindle, partner/chief digital officer, Made Movement puts it: "I think we'll see interesting opportunities to use technology to save us from technology."
In fact, this notion of detoxing from the non-stop connectivity our devious little devices provide is a prominent trend both in terms of what will impact the upcoming year and how people will strive to fuel their own creative engines.
Another hallmark of the coming year is invention, be it in technology, product, or process. While invention has been bubbling along the shores for the last little while, it seems ready to crest over the banks into the mainstream. If there’s one sentiment to take into this New Year, it’s that the new rules of the game dictate that absolutely anything is possible.
Here now are insights, predictions, and prognostications from the industry on what they’re looking forward to, what they suspect will affect their work, and how they’ll make their own individual years more creative.
What are the things (technological, societal, media-related, economic, or otherwise) that you think will have an impact on the kinds of work you’ll be doing next year?
Scott Prindle, partner/chief digital officer, Made Movement: In 2014 I think we'll see interesting opportunities to use technology to save us from technology. Struggles with the ubiquity of computing are reflected in a growing trend towards disconnecting to free ourselves from the onslaught of always-connected gadgetry. Advancements in wearable technologies and the Internet of things will move us towards a happy medium. We'll see a trend towards ambient intelligence where our devices learn about our individual habits and interests, anticipate the kinds of information we're looking for, and surface it at the right time and in the right place. Our technology will be doing more work for us in the background, helping to free up the time that we're currently spending staring at screens.
Winston Binch, partner, chief digital officer, Deutsch LA: I generally only think a few minutes into the future. The pace of technological and culture change is just too fast. It's better to try to invent the future rather than predict it. That said, there are definitely things happening in technology, media, and culture that are influencing our thinking moving into next year. There has been a ton of exciting innovation happening around physical computing and 3-D printing. This trend will continue, and you'll see more brands experimenting with wearable tech and other connected devices to help drive their marketing. Another thing we've really bought into is lightweight digital experimentation, or what we call idea venture-capitalism. The reality in business is that most ideas fail. If you aren't making a lot of stuff, the odds are against you. There's a ton of clutter out there, and in order to move culture and drive business you have to be insanely prolific.
Sandra Krstic, deputy managing partner of DDB & Tribal Worldwide, Amsterdam: The digital and physical worlds will continue to merge. This will impact the type of work agencies do. Connected products, the Internet of things, will become more visible in our daily lives. Also, as our ideas around consumption change, so do our ideas around the importance of goods. The near omnipresence of mobile technology and social platforms enable groups of people to collaborate and share assets in ways easier than ever before. We'll witness the rise of the collaborative economy. In this economy of sharing, how do the needs of purchase and consumption change? How do businesses themselves adapt to meet this model? All these questions impact creativity and the ways it’s done. Fascinating times.
Jae Goodman, co-chief creative officer and co-head of CAA Marketing: I hope that all of the above (tech, society, media, economy) have less of an impact on our work as marketers. I hope we can spend 2014 connecting people to great products and brands with ideas led by insight and creativity, and not so much by external forces. We’ve spent years navigating a down economy and then obsessing over the latest tech and media platform. My wish for 2014 is that while we remain informed by an ever-changing environment, that brands are a little less ruled by it.
Nathan Martin, CEO, Deeplocal: The biggest impact on our work will be the collapse of the rigid division between the product and marketing departments of brands, driven by the need to be constantly innovating. The marketing department will become an innovation group where radical new concepts can be developed and tested on large audiences, without the traditional restrictions of product development. Brands are already no longer able to be experts in one domain or one technology, but they’re being asked to become tech innovation companies. Agencies will shift the way they service marketing teams and will need to support their client’s new role as innovator. To support innovation, agencies need to be able to design and prototype technology quickly as well as have on-staff engineers who can think creatively.
James Milward, president/executive producer, Secret Location: The continual integration of technology into every second of the lives of consumers will be the biggest driver of the work we will do in 2014. This will be combined with the further emergence of wearables, connected/smart TVs, and the shift toward mobile/tablets as the primary devices for connecting to the Internet. This will create a fully on-demand ecosystem for entertainment.
William Gelner, chief creative officer, 180 LA: Our social feeds will continue to be under siege by the world of inane crap. Truly great content and masterful storytelling will be the only thing that breaks through the morass. The best brands and agencies will focus on this. They will create new structures centered around creating the best stuff. Heads of content, or chief content officers, or whatever fancy title we chose to bestow upon them, will start to appear in the C suite alongside CMOs and CEOs. Share-worthy content will become the Holy Grail. I think brands will realize they need to reduce the number of social channels to the one or two that work best, and master them. It won’t be about being channel agnostic, it will be about being channel positive. If none of this should come to pass, rest in knowing that plaid shirts will be outlawed in creative departments until 2029 when they are back in vogue.
Dianne Wilkins, CEO, Critical Mass: 2014 is going to be the customer’s biggest year yet. While the pace of change in technology and media is well documented, we hear less about the rapid evolution of customer expectations. But it is absolutely there and putting huge pressure on brands to adapt. Customers insist that brands sew together all of the micro-interactions (between brand and consumer) in an intelligent way. And when brands disappoint, customers often let them have it, and very publicly. We’ve positioned ourselves around a belief in the cumulative customer experience—helping brands create rewarding and connected relationships with their customers over time. The days of the one-off project or campaign are over, now it’s about data and profiles and connected experiences.
Jaime Robinson, executive creative director, Pereira & O'Dell: With the economy (slowly) rebounding, brands and consumers are becoming ready to play again. This country’s mood has been somber and conservative for long enough, and we’re all craving some post-gloom-and-doom happiness, humor, and imagination.
Wayne Deakin, executive creative director, Jam/Engine: I think next year people will get sick of endless talk and want to see agencies walking the walk. Consumers are so bored of the work that comes out of 1950s creativity models. They can see straight through fake, disingenuous big brand communications. They want the real deal that connects—creative work that does real things in real ways. Leaping from space, towing a space shuttle through town, capturing real-life self-esteem struggles in women, lobbying for governmental change—that’s the next wave of things agencies will be doing. R.I.P. the channel approach and bring on the post-digital thinking or agencies will still be wondering why a 16-year-old in his bedroom can get more views than them.
Genevieve Hoey, creative director, Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam: I think the smart brands will keep pushing us to create work that provides greater utility to consumers, while keeping them entertained. The brands that manage do this while being human—authentic, relatable and intelligent—are the ones consumers will remain open to hearing from. Also, in 2014 the smartest brands will be rewarding their agencies additional chocolate bonuses. Fact.
Binch: I'm a digital product junkie. They're fun to make and can do incredible things for your marketing and business if you get it right. Last year, we started a product innovation service called Inventioni.st to help make it easier and less risky for brands and marketers to innovate. Invention and product innovation have long been priorities. Remarkable products are the best ads. We'll continue to invest a lot of time and creative energy in this space.
Krstic: In business, I would like to focus more on creative business solutions for global brands and less on just the communications work. In personal life, I would like to focus even more on health, well-being and personal growth for my family and myself.
Martin: I want to see more prototyping and more experimentation coming from marketing. Without the restriction of typical product development cycles, brand marketing teams can invent and test new ideas quickly. Brands are not fully taking advantage of the changes in technology development yet. All of the tools that get widely discussed, like 3-D printing, really only matter because they allow clever, talented people and teams to bring ideas into the real world much more quickly than before. I want to see brands embrace what these tools can do. Short runs of entirely new physical hardware products can be produced in weeks. I also want to see less focus on major cities. As a Pittsburgh-based company, we realize the benefits of being a part of a city on the rise that also happens to be the robotics center of the country. I want to see more distribution of agencies and studios in cities like Pittsburgh and I want to hear from more talented people who are looking for something different.
Goodman: More practice, less theory. We have a saying: "Win in the market, not in the meeting." I’d like us to live up to that for all of our clients this year. Let’s do more. Period. (Even if it means doing more with less.)
Marc Sobier, Global Creative Director, Y&R NY: More proper lunches, less eating at my desk. And I love making film. Making a great piece of film is always something I look forward to. Doesn't matter if it's a pre-roll video, interactive film, or a TV spot.
Milward: Getting more and more connected to the "why" of what we produce on digital platforms and technology. Using the actual behavior of our audience to inform the work we do to engage them. I want more of informing the strategy with the critical question of "should we" rather than "could we."
Gelner: I want to be brutally single-minded and highly focused on one thing—the work. I want to be less concerned with all the rest.
Wilkins: We want to do more work helping our clients really figure out how they can build a cumulative customer experience. Campaigns and experiences that blend UX with storytelling and are all built on a foundation of data and customer understanding are the types of experiences that are going to let us try new things, push the limits of convention, and yet still create work that delivers tangible results.
Robinson: We spend so much time with our tablets and smartphones, I’d like to play more with storytelling that uses these devices as an interactive platform (vs. just as a portable screen). There’s undoubtedly more fun to be had with integrating the format into the fiction.
Nancy Vonk, co-founder, partner at Swim: We want to expand on our collaboration with interesting, unlikely people to deliver learning through side doors. We’ve enlisted people like a guy who hunts pirates to talk about risk-taking. A woman famous for her interviews with the music elite came in to share her strategies for connecting with a very tough audience. We brought in the man whose book was the bible for the Occupy movement (The Leaderless Revolution) who had a lot to say about diplomacy and broken models for conflict resolution.
Hoey: More face time, less digital housekeeping. I’m going to wrestle the email beast into submission and free up more time for creating, making, and doing. And talking to people face to face.
Your creative year: what things will you do to be more creative in 2014, or how will you grow creatively?
Martin: Having new experiences that may be challenging or make me feel uncomfortable expand my creativity. I recently returned from a trip to Haiti with a client who’s doing work centered in Port-au-Prince. The experience of being on the ground, meeting families, and experiencing the culture—even briefly—was highly impactful on my ideas for the brand. I felt challenged and responded creatively; in 2014, I want to make sure all of my team feels challenged, uncomfortable, and ultimately surprised by what they invent.
Prindle: I want to get more immersed in the maker movement in 2014. Advancements with physical computing technologies such as 3-D printers, Arduino microcontrollers, sensors, and gesture recognition open up tremendous creative opportunities to merge the physical and digital worlds.
Binch: Creative success is about talent. There's no replacement for it. We're going to do more to grow our people but also look to hire the very best in and around the business. In 2012, we started a digital education service called, DSchool. We started by putting our own people through the program. We're going to do that again. There are no experts in this business, and we find that everyone can use a digital brush-up, including clients. If you want to sell innovation, everyone needs to know how to evaluate and measure it. Creating the right conditions for innovation is essential. And you don't just do it once. It has to be done regularly.
Krstic: Embrace being in perpetual beta state of mind. Continue broadening horizons by further opening up ecosystems and introducing new collaborations. Pursue insights and purpose, rather than just messages.
Goodman: Collaboration is the new "integration." We will help our clients get more creative—and we will get more creative ourselves—by working with a wider range of creative collaborators: artists, technologists, writers, multi-multi-hyphenates, to inform us, inspire us, and work alongside us and our clients.
Sobier: In general, I really want to make the time to experience more culture. Visit more museums, experience more gallery shows, and hopefully see more films. In this business, there's too much time spent in meetings, and every second you're doing that is another moment where you're not absorbing a potential creative influence. When marketing is at its best, it has the ability to become a part of pop culture—rather than just borrowing from it. I'd love to be able to do more of that.
Robinson: This year, I’m going to make more room for daydreaming by (gasp!) separating myself from my iPhone at various different periods during the day. I bet I’ve missed out on a few lighting bolts over the past year because I was too busy farting around on email or reading stories about Miley Cyrus or something. The mind needs time to wander and roam free. Plus, my neck hurts.
Al Moseley, president and chief creative officer, 180 Amsterdam: We are working in brand new markets. This means hiring talent from cultures and countries we haven't previously encountered. When you bring people from different cultures together amazing things can happen creatively.
Vonk: I’m going to take an acting course. I dipped my toe in that water and want to do more of it. Not to moonlight as an actor, but for all the side effects of the exercises actors (go) through—like taking down armor we put on every day to handle stress—to feel all the feelings again. For the joy of using a creative muscle that I haven’t used since my teen years. It's a way for me to show up with more colors—after years in demanding careers, a lot of creative people have put a bunch of them in a drawer.
Deakin: Less time at my desk, more time out in the world seeing what makes people smile, digital or not.
Carolyn Hadlock, executive creative director, Young & Laramore: People think that once you are leading a department you're no longer required to keep learning, that the pressure to improve is gone, that from this point forward, it's about passing down your experience. I don't believe that. I subscribe to the school of thought that we should all, always have teachers in our lives. For me, it's harder because I am in Indianapolis. There isn't critical mass of agencies and creatives here. I've been focused this past year on getting to know and connect with people in the business that I respect and think I can learn from.
Hoey: Productive pondering. I’ll grow creatively by nurturing those moments when my mind has nowhere to go and nothing to do but cavort like a spring lamb through verdant fields of random ideas. I’ll also try not to hamstring my mind-lamb by reaching for technology, mid-cavort.
[Image: Flickr user Martin Fisch]