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Takeaways from the 4A’s

The following are some thoughts I jotted down coming out of three days spent at the American Association of Advertising Agencies conference in Austin, Texas. It’s not meant to be a summary, rather three personal takeaways I thought I’d share to help continue the dialogue. I’m interested to hear your thoughts…

1. A complex possible, but adaptability wins

Digital, mobile, global, local, social, technological, political, media-neutral, people. While the issues aren’t new, the compounding complexity of them together creates challenges at scale and at speeds nearly too difficult to comprehend. Here are some stats in no particular order:

  • In 2011, twice the number of videos will be watched as searches will be conducted online
  • 90% of all Internet traffic by 2013 will be video
  • Mobile reached 100 million users 11x faster than the Internet did
  • China is the 2nd largest market, but its per capita GDP is 1/10th of the U.S.’s
  • China’s stimulus was 10x the size of the stimulus in the U.S.
  • 90% of US economy is domestic
  • People spend 200 million minutes per day playing Angry Birds

As difficult as it is for agencies and clients to make sense of it, it’s even more overwhelming for consumers. What matters? Why? What do I want to change? What do I want to hold on to?

In all of this, the possibilities are greater than the challenges. The degree to which agencies and brands can understand and adapt their services to create more meaningful experiences for consumers will be the degree to which agencies and brands are successful.

An expert today is a dinosaur tomorrow. Those who are constantly exploring and experimenting to adapt faster will be the ones who come out on top.

2. A good idea can come from anywhere

A good idea can be crowd-sourced, agency or client-owned, consumer generated or curated. Regardless of where an idea comes from, for it to be “good” it must:

  1. Be driven by insight: Ideas improve their chances of being good if they are derived from insights – about the business, about the consumer, about competitors, etc. Without the insight, is a good idea really a good idea or is it an idea you think is good?
  2. Be executed while holding hands: Consumers and (most) clients don’t care who executes the idea, only that the idea looks and feels like a consistent engagement that makes as much sense when experienced in its parts as in its entirety.
  3. Build the client’s business: For an idea to be good it must build the business. Period.

From the insight to the execution to the impact, the path is one of continuous, collaborative and creative problem solving. In this way, we are all creatives – but not for creative sake or for the sake of the work. We are all creative problem solvers working together – for our companies, for our clients, for our industry and perhaps most of all for ourselves.

3. Talent matters

This brings us to what was perhaps the industry’s biggest challenge: The churn of human capital. Andrew Bennett, Arnold Worldwide’s CEO presented among other findings that 30% of the industry’s workforce will be out of the industry in a year. A 30% churn is not only an unsustainable business issue, it points to a larger problem of the diminished perception of the industry by the people in it.

Beyond the tactical steps, we need to elevate the employee proposition of what it means to be “in advertising.” We need to stop blaming “the industry.” We are “the industry.” We need to take responsibility for it and elevate it – personally and collectively.

I’m interested to hear what you think…respond here or feel free to connect with me on twitter @billalberti.

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