Archives for posts with tag: digital revolution


Advertising Age posted this week an article “Aging in Adland: The gray-hair phobia that’s hindering older execs.” and it hit a nerve. My Twitter feed was bursting with comments about the article and the comments a the bottom of the post are worth your time.

Rupal Parekh writes:

“Most shops won’t admit it readily, but gray-hair phobia is a reality in the digital era. With agencies continually restructuring and changing models to keep pace with the public’s media consumption habits, adland is right to be digitally obsessed. But most in the industry wrongly assume that the only people who grasp digital are fresh out of college.

That presumption has spawned an undercurrent of resentment as agencies refit themselves for the digital world – a process that often entails stripping out layers of longtime employees in favor of a newer breed of creatives and strategists believed to better grasp the increasingly complex media environment.”

It’s a bigger problem than just the digital revolution

When I started as a copywriter in advertising, people suddenly looked at me differently. Behind that cheap haircut and the non-cool clothes and appearance, there must be something cool about me, right? I didn’t know bands that were playing in a garage, ready to become underground hits. I didn’t go to hidden bars, I didn’t eat in a North Korean restaurant and I didn’t care about that cool movie from Sri Lanka. That average guy, how could he work in advertising?

Once you start working in the advertising industry, it looses its perceived coolness very quickly and turns into a grind of long hours, lost weekends and  endless defeats. (Still, the best profession on earth.) Advertising professionals should know about the lack of coolness in our profession but, somehow, the outside view of our industry has rubbed off on the industry itself in some kind of self-perpetuating cycle.

Focusing on coolness is a sure loser

Being hip and cool seems to be equated by our industry with youth, the general feeling seeming to be that if you’re over 39 years you can’t possible contribute anything valuable. Translated: If you’re not in an executive position by 39 and 364 days, you better look for a new job. You’ll never make it.

This makes no sense. Or to say it in a more diplomatic way: It’s beyond stupid.

The long hours, the lost weekends and overall lifestyle demands youthful amounts of energy and, sure, some agency types are done by the time they start a family, opting for 9-5 lifestyle. This is not a golden rule but agencies love to worship the fountain of youth (the current economic climate doesn’t help) and forget that they are missing out on a deep talent pool.

The industry not only misses out on 39+ executives from other industries who would be suicidal to make the jump into advertising, we’re also losing a lot of talented people inside our industry. Especially bewildering when you have to listen to endless complaints about the “lack of talent” in our industry. I have friends in the industry who were loved by all their clients and co-workers, who can talk more intelligently about emerging technologies than any SXSW attendee and who have an amazing track record of brilliant work who can’t get an interview. Why? Because they were born before 1973.

The industry should take a long, hard look in the mirror: We seem to hire the same cool folks, the same hip people, the same way of thinking. And we end up with similar ideas. Innovative thinking won’t happen when we habitualize our hiring policies.

We need to start recruiting more on attitude and aptitude and less on date of birth.


This column appeared first on Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers

You don’t know you’re part of a revolution unless it’s over

I was born in West-Germany. The Wall was around since I was born. It was a fact just like air, taxes and great German soccer. Nothing would ever change that fact. Throughout 1988 and 1989, it became apparent to some that the era of Cold War Communism was approaching the end. The majority of people, pundits, experts and politicians still believed the Wall would stand for another 1,000 years. A few days later, people were dancing on the Wall.

Human beings are incremental creatures. We don’t recognize revolutions, even if we’re part of it. We just recognize them when they’re over. We didn’t see the demise of newspapers coming. We didn’t see the amazing advent of Facebook and Twitter coming. We had no clue about the iPhone, iPad, mobile evolution, the emergence of blogs as a supplement/replacement of mass media news sources. Most importantly, we had no idea how these new tools, toys and platforms would affect our daily behavior. It happened incrementally.

Incremental doesn’t mean it’s not a revolution.

We’re definitely in a Gutenberg moment: I can publish my opinion through all these new, shiny tools in seconds. I can comment on opinions of other in seconds. All of us have become producers: pictures, words, videos. Too many in the advertising world continue trying to grab on to the old world, trying to bury their head in the sand while the world continues to change. Dramatically. Each and every day. These dramatic changes don’t just affect Marketing and Advertising. It’s a business revolution, an entertainment revolution, an education revolution, a behavioral revolution – it encompasses everything we do.

The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing. – Douglas Engelbart

We don’t know what the future will bring. Mass Media will be around for a while, while Social Media is developing. We don’t know yet how we will work and live when all of us have close friends that we’ve never met, apply for jobs that don’t exist yet, how new forms of expressions will transform our way to communicate. Our physical bodies might be equal with our networked brains, we might not distinguish between the “real” and a “virtual” world. Human Beings have been around for hundreds of thousand years, but the changes we’ll experience in the next 10 years will be more dramatic than the transformation from Neanderthaler to U.S. suburbanite in 2010.

All of us are responsible for the future.

Each one working in the advertising and marketing is responsible not to waste this opportunity. We are too transfixed on get-rich-quick stories, talk too much about little features a platform adds every other month, and we’re too busy proclaiming the death of (TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazines, Web, Social Media – you name it).

We’re just at the beginning. This new world is changing fast and our mind has problems understanding the dimension of this transformation. This is our opportunity of a lifetime. Don’t miss out on it. Or worse, don’t screw it up because all of us determine the outcome of this revolution.


Image: Courtesy of

Fear passes from man to man
As one leaf passes its shudder
To another.
All at once the whole tree is trembling
And there is no sign of wind.
– Charles Simic

Most marketers live a fear-driven life in which thoughts, decisions and actions are motivated by fear. Fear is quite insidious. It creeps into our lives and stops us from doing the things we want. Fear stops marketers from experiencing things that could really allow them to grow a brand into greatness.

We experienced this fear-driven marketing paradigm in the first stages of the digital revolution. How many PowerPoint presentations were developed to convince brands to invest some of their traditional dollars in digital initiatives? I must have created at least 50 decks just speaking to that topic. Someone must have listened because digital marketing spend is increasing yearly. But the tactics are not changing – It continues to be about reach: According to Razorfish and their media budget report for 2009, site specific buys commanded more than 30 percent of client budgets, search and directory buys held 25 percent, ad networks had 20 percent, and portals had more than 10 percent. Proving my point: Fear reigns supreme in marketing.

While the tool boxes have changed dramatically, the marketing paradigm hasn’t shifted a bit: Reach at an affordable cost. Period. End of story. Clients have entrusted me with rather large digital accounts and this is what you get when you engage in the ‘Reach Game’: Tons of impressions that nobody can account for, horrendous click-through rates and a bunch of visitors to your site. To save your job, you better negotiate a few awareness studies with publishers, communicating to executives that people actually saw your advertising and responded positively. Did they respond to your product or the ad? Will the positive response lead to purchase? Oh, come on, you’re asking too many questions. We already had to bribe the respondents with Amazon gift cards, can’t be too specific in our questions.

Sure, marketers venture out of their fear-driven existence once in a while to develop a Facebook page or even allow for a Twitter feed. As Razorfish’ report indicates, these are just some crumbs of the overall marketing pie. Marketers continue to go for the Time Square stunts, Yahoo home page takeover, plastering their advertising all over the Web in the spirit of “You can run but you can’t hide” and the always popular celebrity endorsement. Why? Because it’s safe. It’s what they taught us in marketing school decades ago. And the C-Level suite understands reach metrics.

Ironically, because most marketers don’t take risks they risk the existence of the brand they are asked to grow and, ultimately, they risk their job. Don’t try to buy time by asking for gazillion decks explaining how Social Media can drive your business. (Just Google it – there are tons of case studies.) Don’t cover your behind by delaying any innovative Social Media initiative by letting Legal run the show. Stand up to everyone in the organization (even your agency) and lead your way out of fear. Dump tactics that don’t perform or are kept alive for any other reasons than driving sales. Allocate a healthy portion of your budget to innovative ideas. Take risks. Show your leadership. And kick fear. Hard.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they simply cannot learn, change, feel, grow, love, live…
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves.
Only the person who risks is free.

(Author unknown)