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February 15, 2006
The Learning Curve

There was an article in a recent issue of the Sunday NY Times about Terry Semel and what he's done at Yahoo! during his first five years as CEO. He has completely changed the way they do business, and has done so with remarkable success.

As I was reading the article I was reminded that the ad agency business is facing profound change as well. I think there are parallels between what Yahoo is going through and what agencies are currently going through.

Here's what Farzad Nazem, Yahoo's chief technology officer was quoted as saying:

"Most of the old-media companies treat technology as an afterthought. It's part of the execution, but it's never part of the planning," he said. "In the new world, it's almost the reverse."

The same could be true of ad agencies. Technology is completely changing our business. The question is when agencies will figure out that, like at Yahoo, technology can not be an afterthought. The consumer’s ability to control the messages that reach them is a direct impact of technology advances. How consumers are leveraging technology must be a part of the planning of any campaign.

DVR’s. Video iPods. On Demand. Mobil Marketing. All of these products and channels, and many, many more, are rapidly changing the way we do our jobs. That being said, I am still consistently amazed by the number of people that I meet that are not keeping up with the way the technology (and user control) is affecting the advertising.

How do you keep up? It's a steep learning curve.

Agency pros (and clients) have a bunch of homework to do. If you are not already acclimated to the changes in our industry then you better get moving or in a few years you'll find yourself irrelevant. I'm always surprised when I meet really smart, very successful people in our business who say "I've never seen a blog", or "What is text messaging?” Or the one time I had a long, heated discussion with the Creative Director of a large agency who said he did not own a DVR and didn’t get what all of the fuss was about. Enough said.

There are a multitude of sources that you can use as a way to get up to speed on these changes, and stay on top of the changes to come. Ask some of your colleagues about what web sites, email newsletters, or blogs they read. There are a lot of great resources out there, and a lot of people are paying attention to these rapid changes and reporting about how they are effecting how we go about doing our jobs.

If you are truly committed to a career in advertising, get yourself a DVR. And a mobile phone that can support video. Play with these tools. Get used to them. Understand them. The consumers you are trying to influence are so you better as well.

Also, here are a few sites I use to keep on top of things:

http://adverlab.blogspot.com Blog on the future of advertising technology

http://www.clickz.com The ClickZ Network is the largest resource of interactive marketing news, information, commentary, advice, opinion, research, and reference in the world, online or off-line. From search to e-mail, technology to trends, their coverage is expert, exclusive, and in-depth.

http://www.marketingvox.com MarketingVOX helps marketers and media professionals save time and do their jobs more effectively by keeping them informed of important industry news.

http://www.adverblog.com Great resource for keeping up to date on viral work going on all around the world.

http://www.whatsnext.typepad.com My blog!

Check out these resources. Use these tools. Close your own learning curve. Or else risk becoming as irrelevant as the old agency model.

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Mitchell Caplan is managing director of Business Development & Integration with Kaplan Thaler Group. Early in his career, he became fascinated with helping clients think about how their marketing efforts could go beyond conventional thinking. And since moving to New York over 10 years ago, he has become recognized as one of the leading authorities on the successful integration of traditional marketing techniques with digital marketing solutions.

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