Our guess at what’s coming down the tracks for 2012

We’re finalising some stuff in the office, but before we dispatch our last bits of client work for the year, here are some of our thoughts about what we think is in the air for 2012. Here’s our mix of global and Irish predictions.

1. Facebook and Google will fine-tune their user analytics for advertisers.

Only a dolt would underestimate how pivotal this change will be. The six global agencies combined are smaller in every sense (other than employees) than any one of the biz tech innovation quartet of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. What any one of the quartet can offer is pico-level detail, tons of data, and remarkably clever people who do algorithms for fun. And all that geek stuff leads to better forecasting, tighter evaluations and more efficent campaigns. That firepower isn’t present in the ad industry, or market research. It just isn’t. In Ireland, Facebook in particular have done a good job in attracting some quality advertising alumni. They’ve done this to learn what ad agencies here know and do. They’ve bought the Irish ad industry’s playbook with these hires.   The Heineken initiative is just the beginning. Global brands will increasingly turn to Facebook and Google and ask them to be their media agency.  An outside bet would be for Facebook or Google to buy up a global agency from cash reserves alone: put a few quid on this happening by 2016.

2. There will be fewer ad agencies.

More and more buyouts/takeovers are going to happen. Not because bigger players are speculating to accumulate: rather because there’s not enough business to keep the number of ad shops open. It’s arguably the case that ad people still haven’t got their head round just how bad this recession is going to get, and how much the economy has been battered. In terms of unemployment, we’re dealing with a once-in-a-generation level of abject awfulness. And by generation, we don’t mean quarter-on-quarter slices. Things have not been so bad economically  for 30 years across the developed world. It’s as simple and as gruesome as that.

3. Ad people will have to start learning more about anti-consumerism.

People on low to average incomes are becoming the working poor: they’re on their uppers.  The middle class has been stripped of huge amounts of disposable income, and are freighted with negative equity; they’re running to stand still.  This scenario leads to a frozen economy: things just don’t work they way we’d hoped and assumed they would anymore. Selling them more stuff is not viable. So what are brands and ad agencies going to do to make them spend money they don’t have? Thoughtful types will look to anti-consumerism, and see how this can be exploited for navigable routes through this broken economy.

Posted by Ken.


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