Some days, you can’t help but feel as if the End of Days is somehow thrust upon us.
So many friends and colleagues in South Florida or Texas are dealing with the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, while others, just to the west, are only beginning the long road to recovery after Hurricane Harvey pummeled Houston and wreaked its own devastation from the opposite end of the Gulf. Mexico is digging out from the rubble of back-to-back earthquakes, and as I write this, Hurricane Maria is traveling east across the Caribbean, laying waste to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and threatening to make landfall on the Eastern seaboard or somewhere farther up the U.S. or Canadian coast.
Despite these natural disasters, I believe one of the true hallmarks of America – and also of our industry – is that we have a propensity to wring the silver lining out of many a dark cloud: to show some small measure of personal, homegrown heroism, and put our personal skills and dedication and focus to work on our collective behalf. When you stop to think about it in terms we can all understand, that is one damned powerful brand attribute to have. It’s one that we must continue to recognize, nurture and grown, because it’s one of the best assets that, as an industry or individuals, we are privileged to share.
These natural disasters wreaking havoc upon America demand our urgent attention and assistance to solve. But who better to take up that responsibility? Consider the many challenges that our industry world order has recently endured, as decades upon decades of entrenched practices and prejudices continue to be washed away.
Right now, all of the largest and most influential media distributors like Comcast and Charter and Dish and so many others, keep watching subscribers go up for grabs, as cord-cutters and cord-nevers look more longingly toward Amazon and Netflix and YouTube Red and any other streamers, while Silicon Valley forms a Silicon Beach-head on the outskirts of traditional Hollywood.
Alexander Graham Bell’s great-great-great-great-great grandchild, AT&T is now the world’s largest telecom provider and also stands poised to join (or surpass) the Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox, Sony, Viacom and anyone else when it comes to producing film, TV, sports, music, print, digital and any other form of content to travel the Dallas-based behemoth’s hybrid-fiber coax, satellite beams, wireless spectrum or any other manner of network rails.
ABC, CBS and NBC used to rule unchallenged, and as recently as the late 1980s, as brilliant a media mind as Brandon Tartikoff thought just one more option – Fox – was completely redundant and unnecessary. Yet now, even the most fundamental definition of “channels” has come under siege, as repeat programming succumbs to everything – original and immediate, and even the most powerful, vertically integrated programmers must consolidate to create a bulwark to the dissolution of their most tried-and true networks.
Network proliferation that ruled the 1990s and 2000s was the originator of more choice – which is always a good thing – but, today, that choice is begetting greater demand for more convenience. Once-passive (always-passive) media “watchers” and “audiences” are fast-becoming media go-getters, taking what they want, shaping what they want, forcing our entire media operations to contend with their whims.
It wasn’t so very long ago that the annual spring Upfront was a wild, free-for-all, set into chaotic motion when the first deal got done and everyone jumped into the fray and frenzy. But now, over the past couple of years, that upfront has become a little more sedate, a little more contemplative. And most of the world’s most innovative marketers and savviest agencies are moving unerringly toward a platform agnostic approach, broader integration and automation, and demand for transparency and real-time verification of delivery.
Just this week, my company AdMore announced a new partnership with Mediaocean that promises to ease agency workflow so media buyers can access valuable local cable and broadcast station inventory and weave it more seamlessly into these sorts of cohesive cross-platform buys. Within the next month or two, AdMore will be directly integrated into Mediaocean’s Spectra management platform, enabling agencies to assemble their own “unwired” network to meet specific demands, while benefiting from advanced technologies, software, reporting and measurement.
As a programmatic person, I am certainly the first advocate of that ongoing transition, but my reasons are more than personal or company benefit. Entering the most recent upfront, there was certainly a lot of prognosis about how programmatic advertising and big data were going to take a very sizable portion away from the usual, more traditional, network business. And, yet, the big networks still did quite well in an unexpectedly strong market (a good thing for all of us), while advanced advertising continues to build necessary infrastructure and inroads, rather than orchestrating an immediate coup d’etat on the prior regime.
Competition continues to yield innovation, and that’s a good thing for our entire industry. We continue to surge forward, and familiarity is, ironically, an important agent to change. Shakedowns like this one, transitions like this one – that penetrate to our very core – are difficult to endure. But they also typically allow us to dig deep, find the very best of ourselves – our true purpose – and emerge better, more resourceful and efficient.
I am sure that any one of us can speak to the immensely talented individuals and colleagues we have each known that woke up one morning – even recently – to find their reason for being had somehow dissipated nearly overnight. That they had been rendered obsolete, thanks to some new technology. My programmatic business, quite frankly, is predicated on that principle, but it certainly doesn’t make it any less difficult to see good friends come face to face with their own, often-painful, career re-definitions.
There are many times, like these, that you just want to stop reading the paper (or iPad), turn off the television (or Netflix), and just duck your head, hide in the shadows, or cling with your entire heart, soul and mind to the things that have always seemed safe. Yet, try to bear in mind that, when what seems like the End of Days comes whipping down with gale force or the ground trembles beneath your feet, it’s also an opportunity to discover that best part of yourself – and get even better.