Matt Williams: why advertising – in 2015 as in any other year – won’t be a zero sum game

2015 will finally be the Year of Mobile. Maybe. It will definitely be the Year of Real-Time Marketing. Perhaps. It’ll certainly be the Year of Content. Unless it’s not.

Don’t you just love the first few weeks in January? A time for optimism, good intentions, and hundreds of predictions from experts that are rarely checked twelve months down the line.

I’m not going to belittle these prediction pieces though. Although they can often be an easy way to fill column inches, they actually tend to do a great job in raising the important issues of the day, take stock of the industry as it is, and make us think about what’s needed in order to progress in a beneficial and innovative manner. In short, you may be sent a ton of them, but they could be the most valuable things you read this year.

But let me add one caveat to all of these Prediction Essays and 2015 Blueprints. And that’s to do with short-termism. The hardest thing about writing prediction pieces each January is that in marketing – just like in many other industries – everything and nothing changes.

Technology advances. Brands evolve. Consumer power shifts. But some fundamentals never change. People still want things that will entertain them, inform them or make their lives easier. Sure, this is now being done on new and different platforms, but for as long as people still have emotion, the heart and soul of our business remains remarkably similar to what it has always been.

The industry still faces many of the same issues today that it faced 50 years ago. Too much big talk with no real results. Over-zealous clients wanting more bang for their buck. An over reliance on rules, on formulas, on pandering to whoever it is that can give you the next pay rise.

But it also means the industry is still as exciting to be a part of as it was 50 years ago. OK, so there may be less scotch. And Friday lunches may be a little less fun. But the ability to be creative, to grasp hold of and truly love brands, to use art as a power of persuasion – that’s what this industry is all about, it’s why people want to be part of it, and it’s, I’d like to think, as true now as it ever has been.

Which brings me back around to short-termism. For 2015, I have one hope, rather than a prediction. And it’s for consistency. To look beyond the next twelve months and to focus on building brands for the forseeable future, rather than just the next ad campaign.

I have no doubt about the power of mobile, the power of real-time or the power of content. But because one brand manages to get lucky and send a tweet that goes viral shouldn’t mean we announce them as the defining social media brand, and anoint their approach as the only trademark for success. And just because an innovative new marketing technique begins to shine over the next few months, it doesn’t mean that all other forms of advertising are dead.

So this year let’s celebrate and learn from the brands that get it right consistently, that have genuinely rounded advertising offerings. Who back up brilliant branded communications with great customer service. Who not only have an effective digital journey, but a brilliant tone of voice to back it up.

The guardians of these brands are the ones whose thoughts and predictions are most worth listening to.

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