Hypnotists and neuroscientists. Moms and teens. Search marketing analysts and linguists (or text analytics experts). And not to forget, geeks, psychologists, entertainers and forecasters. This is the motley crew of people who are trickling into advertising’s heavenly doors. Some of them may well lead the agency of the future — whatever that is. Advertising is increasingly striving to be all things to all people and “by” all people, with a special eye on preventing rivals in various media and digital streams from taking away business. And an agency’s product is no longer defined as advertising, but “media arts” peopled by artists, says legendary creative director Lee Clow.
That makes room for all shades of seers and mavericks. Some early signals: Boston-based agency Arnold Worldwide has cognitive scientists who work in its new department of human nature, which taps into psychology, computer science, linguistics and neuroscience to understand what makes people tick, buy and recall ads. Some creative messages are modified based on the scientists’ insights on human behaviour and response. The Nielsen Co. has stake in NeuroFocus, which specializes in applying brainwave research to advertising/programming and also employs neuroscientists. And WPP Group’s media specialist GroupM is consolidating its search operations globally. Search services could be dovetailed with each GroupM specialist company and led by search analysts.
A Forrester Research report states that agencies have to restructure and shift from creating messages to forging community links. It advocates that “connected” agencies be organized around consumer communities and not disciplines and skills. That makes sense, since consumers rely more on advice from friends and their various communities for product purchase decisions, and are increasingly tuning out of ads. Agencies would hence need to help marketers align with communities of mutual interest; they would also need to be active members of such communities and perhaps also hire some community members. Moms and teenagers could find useful roles in such community-driven agencies. Procter and Gamble Inc. (P&G) has its equivalent of a woman-consumer agency with Capessa. This community website for women can help P&G learn more about the product needs of women, and how it can be more relevant in their lives.
If advertisers can tap into consumer-communities to know how to speak to them, then agencies should do so in a manner more full-fledged than focus groups. Agencies need structures that encourage voluntary interaction from consumer communities on the back of digital (communications) integration. Moms, shrinks and geeks could well become celebrated ad folks one day.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org