Disruption is an overused word

Disruption is an overused word

Something from a recent trip to an advertising conference has got Greg Grimmer’s hackles raised…

Given that my old school reports used to say I had a tendency to be a disruptive influence, I was probably destined to end up in advertising.

Disruptive is an overused word in any modern business sector, but especially our own. It has become the marketer’s go-to safe word and the media planner’s favourite descriptor for even the most staid strategy.

Marketing is an ever-evolving discipline, yet for all the word’s foibles, we as marketing communicators have to respond to sector disruption and innovation. The advertising industry, after all, has to constantly evolve to the great disruptive forces of technological innovation, as well as societal change.

Don’t fall for the latest new thing without considering your audience

This is not a case of mistakenly solely believing you need a brand presence on the new must-be-seen-on communication channel. Although, to share a secret, the CTRs on my Lycos, Bebo and MySpace pages have all struggled in recent weeks.

Successfully benefiting from disruption to the industry is more about appreciating the audience’s behavioural change, than adopting its new shiny technology.

[advert position=”left”]

Not that being aware of audience migration is unimportant, it is clearly sometimes necessary to include new communications in your planning to reach your target market. It is now not uncommon to see brands appear on WeChat, Line, Kik, Snapchat and Kakao Talk as these OTT messaging services become Generation Z’s dominant platforms.

Simply put, disruption means last year’s media plan may now simply not work for our clients.

Nothing is as disruptive as mobile

Even in the fledgling sector of mobile advertising we have seen massive changes.

NFC has largely replaced QR codes; beacon technology has made SMS marketing belong to the era of predictive text; long form video has been replaced en-masse by short form designed around the mobile consumer; and audiences now expect to engage with video in smaller, tailored bite-size chunks. They also expect it to vertically align.

(Only the Amish turn their wrist.)

The best advertising is responsive to change

However, disruption affects all of our advertising community. That beautiful, award-winning TV ad may still be brilliant, but if the viewer’s attention is continuously on their phone it becomes ineffective.

Similarly, display advertisers need to respond to the new mass adoption of ad-blocking. Native ads, increased social sharing promotion and improved ad quality have all been suggested answers to this recent disruption.

Therefore, even when our industry is being obligated to innovate to survive, new opportunities to deliver positive change for our clients are emerging.

Adapt (every day) or die

The lesson is clear then: advertisers have to adapt to new disruptive technology.

We can hardly expect to deliver the work our clients expect if we are sending the message on a channel that fails to engage with their ideal consumer.

But disruption is not just about changing communication channels; it can mean understanding a completely new type of consumer behaviour.

Cue Google and Uber…

Take the common practice of Googling or getting an Uber as examples.

A company offering an innovative way to search the web for information in the early 90s had by the end of the decade become so frequent a search action that ‘to Google’ became a verb.

A corollary became to place ads on Google to take advantage of this new searching behaviour.

Mid-way through this decade it has restructured as Alphabet in part to allow new disruptive businesses such as Calico and Nest to be adopted more successfully.

As for Uber, the hailing of long established, iconic yellow New York taxis is a practice that now seems out-dated.

This was best expressed by my esteemed French creative director following attacks on Uber drivers by rival taxi firms in Paris: “It’s like the mail-man punching you in the face for sending an e-mail!”

He reflects the modern consumer’s desire of on-demand, reviewable service and this is echoed in Uber’s advertising preferences.

Targeting this new audience with an un-localised, un-contextualised and un-personalised generic ad no longer gets the same response in this mobile, instant gratification consumer era.

The reality

The scariest part is that technological innovation will also never again be as slow as it is today; but rather than something to be feared, the disruption it brings can be the industry’s force for good.

The marketing beast is at its core a creature of flux and fluidity. The fluidity is that the purpose remains not just to communicate a statement, but to build a consumer connection. Disruptive communication channels merely offer new, effective ways to achieve this connection on a channel convenient for your audience.

So, if planned, and creatively well-harnessed, all media campaigns have the ability to be disruptive. Or interruptive for the want of another more out-of-vogue term.

But for now I’ve got to go. I’m off to download the latest mobile ad-blocker (before it gets removed from the app store).

Greg Grimmer is global COO of Fetch.

Media Jobs