If you're reading this column right now, you are -- I assure you -- a big part of the problem.
As marketers, we just can't stop or chill, even in late December. We don't know the word siesta. We're like Energizer bunnies on steroids, spinning incessantly in on the Hamster wheel. Worst still, we're so darn close to what we do, what we analyze, and what we measure for "next day ROI" purposes, that we can't always see movement for the tactics. Yet our world is coated with disruption and friction. Media continues to fragment, attention is ever-elusive, and marketers are all scratching their heads about how to engage, or even define what that damn word means. Any yes, we're a bit schizophrenic, and we can't make up our minds: are we about the old-way or the new way? Are we persuaders or invaders? Are we in control, or are "they" in control? Are we trustworthy, or sneaky and stealththy?
So with that rosy and optimistic backdrop, I offer my required "Ten Predictions for the New Year."
The Chiropractic Motherlode: 2007 will be the year chiropractors make a ton of money fixing sore elbows from the Nintendo Wii Frenzy. Wikipedia will soon have an entry entitled either "Gamers Elbow" or "Wii Syndrome." Plasma TV sales may also see a noticeable spike in "replacement sales" due to Wii-precipitated damage from broken straps hitting the screen Gyms treadmills will start to feel threatened by "calorie burning" Wii consoles. (Care to wager?)
From Cable to Internet TV: Cable deserves credit for pioneering "on-demand" TV, but the Web is taking TV to the next stage. With YouTube setting the pace, and forcing (with pleasure) the habit-change, the Web is quickly becoming de facto television. Yes, we're currently in a world of 5 minute video segments, but that will change. The upside of Web TV is we can talk and watch at the same time, but that also has downsides, namely, more rounds of attention deficit disorder (ADD). Still, can my brand sponsor the next Lonely Girl?
Hiccups on Second Life: Second Life will continue to experience a massive growth but those of us who never basked in the glory of Dungeons and Dragons (define) will start to wonder why we walked through the door in the first place. Over time, nearly 70 percent of the business that opened up on Second Life will shutter their doors or just gather cobWebs because they realized they needed to do more than just generate a press release about "launching on Second Life."
Back to (Web site) Basics: Online video will be among the factors encouraging brands to "return to fundamentals" with their brand Web sites. Smart digital managers will recognizing their potential as not only media-rich content channels, but also as word-of-mouth or CGM amplifiers. Oh, and they're also critical for SEO. Sites like YouTube will still be part of the mix, but as Dove demonstrated with Real Beauty's Evolution spot, world class execution also depends on getting it right in the brands backyard, complete with empowering feedback loops. In addition, blog publishing software -- and all their low-cost bells and whistles (and "widgets") will become more deeply engrained in the typical brand Web site (at far lower cost), shifting power from tech departments back to the brand managers.
Creative Darwinism and Disintermediation: Expect many more major brands to outsource creative development to unknown EepyBird-like upstarts that prove their creative mettle through YouTube popularity stickiness. Madison Avenue will freak, and fight back with a furry but in the end, more creative work will outsource virtually or shift away from higher cost-of-production centers like NY and LA. Local regions like Cincinnati, drawing from Procter-influence TV copy production principles, will develop hybrid production models to produce more video for less, especially for brands that increasingly view their Web sites as TV channels. Expect to see more "how to" video demos on brand Web sites.
Stars and Scars: The notion of negative GRPs, an accountability scorecard that factors in negative ad impressions precipitated by ill-advised advertising decisions or placements, will finally take root in the ad industry. Dramatically improved analytics in consumer-generated media(CGM) will make this possible. If, for example, a TV-campaign backfires and brand venom spreads across the message boards and blogs, agencies and media planners will be held more accountable...or perhaps even have negative impressions deducted from the GRP (gross rating point) reward model. Similarly, expect more "traditional" agencies to get smaller bonuses, rewards, or stars on their forehead for the online video failure to engage.
Mobile Madness: Marketers will rush like mad to mobile application programs, establishing dedicated teams to crack the code in this "crackberry" environment of ever-smaller, ever-smarter mobile phones and PDAs. Plenty of great services, utilities, and "solutions" will emerge, many of which will be brand-sponsored. However, much of hype and exuberance will be tempered by consumer research citing massive turn-off factor via intrusive advertising.
More "Free for Me": Expect to see more free stuff; free phones, free Wi-FI, in exchange for consumer attention, opt-in profiling, or other relationship marketing activity. Even at next years big conferences, free iPods preloaded with "selling" videos and podcasts will be given away to key influencers or high-value lead prospects. Big advertisers will also start gobbling up all paid WiFi networks at airports, maybe even Starbucks, to drive goodwill with consumers and own the start-up page. P&G, Unilever, and L'Oreal will fight head-to-head to free WiFi enable every beauty spa in America.
Online Spending Up, But "Paid" Media Overall Takes A Hit: Paid media spending will take a noticeable stumble in 2007, as more marketers wake up to the attention-scarce economy; money will instead be redirected to product development, innovation and customer experience/service. Big marketers will all return to the late 1990s practice of aggressively promoting URLs on their TV ads and their packaging, thereby reducing their dependency on "paid" traffic. Media planners will start to be rewarded to develop and manage customer service interfaces, and rewarded on the basis of positive CGM and buzz oozing from those practices. Consumer affairs and marketing will finally begin to morph. Meanwhile, more money will pour into interactive media, because it's still priced so low. Interactive advertising dollars will chase social-enhanced media. However, arrogant advertisers will piss off a lot of people in the process and stir an advertising revolt.
Less Vernacular on Blogs, RSS, Podcasting, Web 2.0: Most Web 2.0 terminology will soon become invisible to consumers. RSS and blogs will simply become part of the supporting infrastructure of the Web. Most apps such as Google Reader, IE 7, and Vista will simply bake this into the core foundation, and we may even have fewer feedback buttons on Websites because the subscription process will become increasingly automated. Conferences that use the term "Web 2.0" will start testing new terminology.
Regulatory and BBB Closure on Disclosure: Pay to Say advertising via models like PayPerPost will awaken the slumbering FTC (and consumer groups like Consumer Alert) into a new wave of industry regulation. Triggered in part by PayPerPost's overtures to small businesses, the Better Business Bureau will finally enter the word-of-mouth transparency and disclosure debate. Expect to see them to expand and renew the definition of the privacy seal to encompass principles similar to what WOMMA has integrated into their ethics code: honesty of disclosure, honestly of relationship, honesty of identity. BBB's entry will precipitate a broader and more inclusive discussion among other industry groups who until now have sat on the sidelines, including the DMA, AAAA, ANA, and IAB.
Happy New Year!
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Pete Blackshaw, whose professional background encompasses public policy, interactive marketing, and brand management, is executive vice president of strategic services for Nielsen Online, a combination of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a firm Pete helped cofound, and Nielsen//NetRatings. One of Pete's key focuses is helping brands interpret, manage, and act on consumer-generated media (CGM). A former interactive marketing leader at P&G and founder of consumer feedback portal PlanetFeedback.com, Pete cofounded the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). He authors several blogs, including ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com, and is the author of an upcoming book from Random House, "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World."
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