Claire Beale on Advertising

It's the year to get with the digital project or tumble by the wayside

Ah, New Year's Day: a time for the sorrows of the past 12 months to melt, by way of a sozzled fug, into rampant optimism for the year ahead. But 2007 could be the year you face professional extinction.

Sure, there's plenty for adland to be optimistic about... if it's up for a challenge. But, frankly, anyone who isn't might as well stay in bed tomorrow. Because if there's one thing that will define the next year, it's dramatic and irreversible change.

The processes of advertising, give or take the arrival of television and computers, was pretty set for a hundred years or so. But digital is the rocket up the arse of the old world order and is about to blow it to smithereens. This year will be the tipping point, when advertising becomes democratised. Commercial communication can no longer be the preserve of the big ad agency, with its thick departmental layers, many-mouthed and hungry. The marketer's purse is now in open play.

From digital agencies winning traditional above-the-line assignments to branding agencies working across all consumer touch-points, to media owners cutting out the advertising middle-man, to YouTubers making their own ads, the marketer's options just exploded. And with this explosion some control - control over how a brand is portrayed, perceived - must be ceded.

The seeds of the 2007 revolution have already been sown. Here are just a few examples that should send ad agencies' blood running cold. Glue, one of the hottest agencies creating advertising online, is currently pitching for its first off-line creative assignment - the £10m Eurostar account. Why would any sensible advertiser have a digital agency and a traditional agency if it can get great work, on-line and off-line, from a single agency source? Meanwhile, new brands are emerging that are building their businesses without an ad agency in sight, thank you very much. Take Ella's Kitchen, a kitchen-table start-up (by Ella's dad, Paul Lindley) selling organic children's food that has become one of the retail success stories of the last year.

The brand has been advertised on satellite channels in a deal - sure to become a blueprint - with Viacom Brand Solutions, which sells ad-slots on channels including Nickelodeon. Viacom made the ad and then swapped the airtime (worth millions of pounds in revenue) for a share in Ella's Kitchen's profits. Without this sort of deal Ella's Kitchen would have struggled to afford TV advertising and the retailers (who like to see real marketing support for the brands they list) would have jealously guarded their shelf-space.

It's not just media companies that are making ads. Type "Diet Coke" or "Sony Bravia" into YouTube and you'll find plenty of films about these brands made by punters, some of them celebratory, some of them sacrilegious, all of them prime examples of consumers taking ownership of brand communications; marketing directors (and their ad budgets) go hang.

So where does all of this democratisation leave traditional ad agencies?

For those prepared to rip up decades of certainties and embrace a much looser definition of advertising, the revolution should be good news: creating compelling commercial content has never been more necessary.

The days of the couch-potato viewer waiting to be served a diet of mostly mediocre TV programmes, and mostly mediocre ads, are drawing to a close. In the new, digital, world, consumer empowerment rules and we're no longer happy to watch what the schedulers deem fit. So 2007 will be the year of television on-demand and, as broadcasters become content suppliers rather than content schedulers (most of them are well on the way to supplying content digitally and on-line for us to watch when we choose), the way we see ads will change. With TV on-demand, advertising will become both more and less targeted. More targeted because digital technology means advertisers will be able to identify exactly the right consumers for their brands and deliver personalised TV ads to individual households. Less targeted because, if viewers are watching TV programmes on-demand rather than to a TV schedule, the ability to determine when, where and how often a consumer will see your commercial message evaporates. And then, of course, digital technology also allows us to avoid ads more efficiently than ever.

For good ad agencies, all of this should be good news. For not-so-good agencies, it could be very bad news indeed. Great ads (like, say, last year's Sony Bravia "paint" spot by Fallon) will be sought out by interested consumers, passed around virally, pastiched mercilessly and TV sets will be sold. Bad ads will disappear without trace and so, too, will some bad agencies.

But it's no good just making a good ad anymore. In 2007 the pre-release activity behind a blockbuster commercial will emerge as a military operation in its own right. A blockbuster ad will be PR-ed (watch out over the next few days for the onslaught supporting the debut of the new PG Tips ad starring the old ITV Digital monkey and his side-kick Johnny Vegas for a lesson in how to do it). It will be seeded on the web (teasers, previews, making-ofs...). There will be planned word-of-mouth (screenings and brand experiences for opinion-formers)

So 2007 will demand a new advertising lexicon. "Advertising" is increasingly too scant to describe what ad agencies will have to do if they are to survive in this new world order.

NOW FOR some crystal-ball predictions for the advertising village grassroots. And, yes, change is top of the agenda.

There will be undoubtedly be more acquisitions this year: Clemmow Hornby Inge will continue to be wooed by several holding companies - will Havas prove the sweetest partner?

With creative media-led thinking in the ascendancy, Naked, now a fully-fledged international business, will be near the top of a few shopping lists too. Its rival Michaelides and Bednash, which has flirted with potential purchasers for some time now, could find itself back in fashion.

Meanwhile, the identity-less Draft/FCB could be the first creative agency to seriously pull media planners back in-house this year, but what would that mean for sibling media agency Initiative? Its sister Interpublic agency McCann-Erickson is said to be looking for a UK purchase, though there's not much worth buying unless Mother caves in (would there be any marriage more counter-cultural?). And definitely all of the best digital independents will be approached this year with acquisition offers.

Expect some dramatic changes at WPP after mixed fortunes at its UK agencies in 2006. Could success at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R foster a new start-up from amongst the management ranks? Could the lack of real success at Grey have a similar effect?

Change must certainly come at JWT, which limps into 2007 as a wounded concern. Meanwhile, over at the terminal, United, change must eventually be of phoenix proportions.

The fact is that, with the industry at large facing such seismic upheaval, no agency can afford to have structural weaknesses. The real - and largely unresolved - question is what exactly is the best agency-structure for the digital age. It's a question that 2007 must answer. Happy New Year.


As you nurse your New Year hangover, a few uncomfortable questions: Did you vomit in the back of a cab last night? Or start a fight? Or wet yourself?

People do some quite disgusting things when drunk. Many of them are toe-curlingly portrayed in a new ad from JWT (quite possibly the best thing they've done all year) in association with MTV (which provides free advertising airtime) and Auto Trader.

Check out "Christmas Drunks Idiots" on YouTube to see the grisly, funny detail. I defy you to watch this ad and not have at least one moment of excruciating self-awareness: is there anybody out there who hasn't been this drunk?

The point of the ad, though, and the neat twist at the end, is that the real idiots are not the guys in such a state that they chunder in the cab. The real idiots are the ones who try to drive themselves home.

It might not have the gruesomeness of some anti-drink-drive commercials, but I reckon the target market will actually seek it out, choose to watch it. I hope it works. And respect to cabbies everywhere.

Claire Beale is editor of 'Campaign'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas