Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

One year on, what has really changed?

By Simon Akers, CEO of Archmon and NDA columnist

At first glance – this may come across as potentially a lazy post, and I am hoping the team at NewDigitalAge agree to publish this piece as it is essentially a repost.

But that is the whole point. Hear me out.

Last year I wrote this: All I want for Christmas is realistic predictions, where I was as ever trying to not be too anti trends, accept some things change but at the same time try to reiterate that there are fundamentals that should always go into planning for marketing success. Rather than looking at what would change, I pulled out some key themes; Fundamentals are perennial, balancing brand and performance media, freeing up your people, encouraging creativity, Being more inclusive, building trust, the importance of measurement and doing the right thing.

But a year on, and a year of pretty much unbridled progress back to a post-pandemic norm, albeit with belt-tightening backdrops of recession and the war in Ukraine, one would expect to see improvements in key areas and evolution. Alas, it just seems the more things allegedly change, the more they stay the same.

Have a read and let me know if I am wrong here -but here we go

Perennial Fundamentals – remaining just that, those planning truths, things you should bank on Year on Year for marketing best practice. The very nature of perennial meaning it should be just as so written in late 2021.

The Brand: Performance split and dichotomy tiresomely continues. Ad Twitter arguing themselves into corners, decrypting the semantics of what is and is not performance. Surely shouldn’t all marketing perform? Even tech platforms advertising a webinar titled something like Team Brand v Team Performance further entrenches a tired either/or narrative, when the balance I wrote of yesteryear should be embracing them both.

Free Up your people from the shackles to do the best work was the biggest post-COVID opportunity of all to take advantage of a forced shift-change of ways of working. but from where I am stood, I’m sad to see so many businesses insist on getting people back in the office every day. You only have to look at Elon Musk’s recent thoughts and behaviour he has shared to identify this issue too. What have we really learnt? And what has really changed? Disappointingly little, it must be said.

Encouraging the power of creativity remains an oh-so-important venture and this year has seen a creeping back to more humorous, human and less serious, drivel-laden purpose-led communications, and the world is better for itl Proof that unlocking creativity from all corners makes things better pretty much always.

The DIversity & Inclusion piece is an ongoing fight that may well take a huge demographic transition over many years to make a real definitive change, but the hope is that we are getting ever so slightly better each year. However, with ad-hoc reporting from think tanks and a lack of self-accountability combined with a slow pace within businesses, it is hard to know which direction the choice of inclusion is truly travelling in. We can only hope for some sign of improvement.

Trust building as a piece through all communications remains a priority for brands building out their first-party data strategies, and value exchanges should always provide the cornerstone of the unwritten contract between consumer and seller. Without getting into the moving feast of cookie deadlines and advent of clean room tech, it feels that little has changed this year and that Google’s goalpost moving has impacted little change.

Measurement has in fairness been an area of change, particularly with the announcement of Google moving away from their typical last-click attribution settings and speaking more recently of econometric modelling powering the GMP and helping make better decisions. This is a welcome step and can only be a good thing, especially for small advertisers. However, proceed with caution; what doesn’t change is their exceptional self-serving requirements. Like any tech platform, they will want to use these longer-term efficacy reads to drive more display and video top-of-funnel buying within their ecosystem.

Which brings me to the final piece as we considered Doing the Right things, and it is hard to see if the needle has shifted much, but again the penchant of our industry to be seduced by the snake oil salesmen, being told to put all their money into an arbitrary GenZ social platform or into TV very much remains. Good planning and multi-digital-channel education, especially with the advent of new CTV channels including Disney & Netflix, commands a continual new toolkit of learning,

To close, have another read, and tell me if any of these things have truly changed. I knew they would not have, and lo and behold they have not. Some of this is reassuringly unchanged and therefore good, but it feels saddeningly like we missed some opportunities to really shift the paradigm, especially in terms of people, remote working and inclusion and diversity. I am cautiously optimistic and believe people want sensibility from a saturated noisy world.

Catch you next year, and hopefully, 2023 is another year of things getting better and fundamentals being delivered and addressed.

Ok, off to get the corkscrew to the Tempranillo, a perennial fundamental truism that’s never changed! Have a very Merry Christmas everyone.