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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Silicon Valley Wisdom

I was doing a bit of digging recently and found that the term Silicon Valley is a good but older than I imagined. While there is a lively dispute going on regarding who coined the term, it appears that Don Hoefler was the first person to use the term “Silicon Valley” in the printed word. That was way back in 1971 which surprised me. Prior to that, many people appeared to refer to the tech area as “Silicon Gulch.”

As the years have passed books have been written about the nuggets of wisdom coming from Silicon Valley. They may be attributed to Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Mark Zuckerberg, a number of venture capitalists and many other tech players. Someone asked me this past week which comment had the most staying power with me. I am embarrassed to say that I do not know the man or woman who first said it but it goes as follows:  “We overestimate what can be done in three years, and underestimate what can be done in 10.”

Think about that line for a few moments. To me, it so dead on that it is almost eerie.

To the graybeards reading this—Remember when cable first began an advertising medium? Some suggested that the major over the air networks were going to dry up and blow away. Clearly, it did not happen in three years but a decade later, the networks had lost substantial audience share and ad dollars began a shift as well.

The same thing happened with early online activity in late 1999 and early 2000. When the dot.com crashed occurred, online suffered a setback but came roaring back a few years later and, by 2010, only neanderthal advertisers did not have some digital in the mix. How about 2009-2010? If someone wanted to look intelligent in a meeting, the magic word, sometimes whispered, was Facebook. I am convinced that they picked up much too much advertising revenue early on in their development. Did it work? Few knew and sadly, some did not care. They wanted to appear cutting edge.

Look back, if you will, ten years. Think of the things that you do now as a matter of course that you would not have thought of years ago. Netflix streaming? Watching video on your phone? Texting like crazy at age 70? Making bank deposits via your device? These lifestyle changes have been remarkable and we would all regret losing them.

My point is that we, in the media world, need a long term perspective. We need to be flexible and always remember that we will be surprised at both what will happen and what will not.

The great Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote in “Either/Or”—“he who become wedded to the spirit of the times soon becomes a widower.” So, embrace change, but do not do a complete 180 degree turn on media mix. Over a decade, absolutely. But constantly shifting gears as we move in to new platforms seems to be a winning approach.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmaill.com or leave a message on the blog.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Dead Cat Bounce in Legacy Media?

There are many sayings in Wall Street lore that I love and have used to make a point over the years. One of my favorites is the “Dead Cat Bounce.” What this means is a temporary recovery of the share price of a company that has taken a real shellacking of late. For example, a stock was at 100 and dropped to 30. It then jumps back for a brief time to 35 as short-sellers cover and then continues its downward slide. Wall Street analysts will sometimes say “Even a dead cat will bounce if it is dropped from high enough.” At the risk of offending the cat lovers among my readership (I am an enthusiastic dog guy), I think an argument can be made that a dead cat bounce might in evidence in the conventional media world these days.

Several years ago, newspapers were essentially left for dead. Many are still struggling. The two leaders, THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE WASHINGTON POST, are currently enjoying something of a revival. The TIMES now has over 2.5 million digital subscribers and revenue is up from subscriptions although advertising is still struggling. The Wall Street Journal has nearly 1.3 million subscribers while the POST has recently crossed the 1.0 million mark after a spirited marketing effort. Some say the POST has been energized by Jeff Bezos who has added a large number of reporters and a financial cushion. One reader told me (and I disagree) that the paper has been much helped by the release of Steven Spielberg’s film, THE POST.

How about MSNBC? Its ratings have soared over the last year and do not forget the late night talk shows. Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, and Seth Myers all seem to have a new lease on life and they appear to be having the time of their lives each night.

Why? Well, it seems that we have a controversial person in the White House. The papers have lots of material to work with and are turning investigative reporters loose as our the cable channels. The comics are doing some wonderful political satire and some of their material is hilarious. Saturday Night Live seems more vibrant that it has been in decades and big name talent appear to be lining up to do cameos. Two on air talents, Bill Maher and Samantha Bee, to me, have crossed the line of propriety with their comments.

So the question I have for you is the apparent chaos in the White House and Congress the real reason for the renewed vigor of these media properties? If someone else is president on January 20, 2021 will these legacy media properties and formats continue their relentless slide of recent years? Is their current buoyancy real or is it a media version of a “dead cat bounce.” Will newcomers stick with them for the long haul?

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Friday, June 1, 2018

A New Lost Generation?

The group of people who came of age during World War I (1914-1918) were sometimes referred to as “The Lost Generation”.  The term was popularized by the great author Ernest Hemingway and was front and center in his 1920’s novel, THE SUN ALSO RISES.
Some sociologists characterized this group as being disoriented, wandering and directionless. A bit harsh, I would say. Yet, looking at some recent demographic data, I wonder if a 21st century Lost Generation is emerging 100 years later.

What am I referring to is the millions of young Americans who are hamstrung or perhaps handcuffed by student loans and are struggling to repay them. The average student loan now rests at $34,000 and many young adults with unusually high balances are on 20 year payment plans to retire them.  Some unscrupulous lenders came in at almost predatory interest rates and added fuel to the fire although they are not as prominent today. According to recent data and projections provided by the Brookings Institution, many who owe are in default. There is a unique and scary divide on defaults. A stunning 47% of people with loans to fund education at a for-profit institution are in default. Conversely, 13% (still too high) are in default if the loan was for schooling at a non-profit center of higher learning. Also, the Brookings data showed that many people default after many years of dutiful payments. Some people pay for a dozen years and then fall off the ability to pay. Brookings projects that as many as 40% overall could be in default by 2023. How is that possible? Here is my theory: our economy has been in recovery after a terrible downturn in 2008 aka The Great Recession. At some point, a downturn is inevitable. When it hits, a few million young people who have been struggling to make their monthly payments may default as many will be hit with either short term or perhaps long term unemployment.

Just how big is the total of Student Loan debt? The figure bandied about these days is $1.4 trillion. Here are some data compiled by the New York Federal Reserve Bank for January, 2018 which pegs student loans as the 2nd largest category of loans in the U.S. Details are:

Home Mortgages    $8.7 Trillion

Student Loans.          1.34 Trillion

Auto Loans.               1.19 Trillion

Credit Card Debt        784 Billion

Home Equity Loan     412 Billion

Some crazy things are going on in an effort to prevent defaults. Some 22 states will pull licenses for nursing, medical technicians, doctors, and even teachers certifications if you have misses a certain number of payments. Three states—Montana, Iowa, and Oklahoma have suspended drivers licenses to those in default. Really? In rural areas, how do you get to work where there is no public transportation? Does a friend give you a ride every day? C’mon. The states are sensitive about the drivers license issue and say that it is rarely enforced. How does a nurse pay back her debt when she can no longer work as a nurse? It is a classic Catch-22. Remember, even if you declare bankruptcy your student loans are not forgiven so people cannot “game the system” that way.

Some people say that student loans are harmful to the economy. On a short term basis, that strikes me as sheer idiocy. The money does not sit there. It goes to schools for tuition, room and board and greedy book publishers pick up some funds. That money goes to pay salaries and maintenance at the institutions.  Long term, I do believe the approximately $1.4 trillion and growing will be a drag on the economy. Some four out of 10 recent graduates stay living with their parents for a few years to allow them to buy a vehicle and pay down some of the debt until a raise or two or a better job arrives.  Some 78% of millennials with student debt state that they cannot save for a downpayment on a home. A full two thirds say that they do not feel secure. I could not find figures on this but I am curious as to how many with student debt bypass 401k’s at their place of work until the balance is worked down. Your 20’s and early 30’s are key capital formation years and if you miss the first 12-15 years, you will never catch up with your debt free colleagues.

Solutions? Some have suggested that you pay back as a fixed percentage of earnings. So, a young investment banker with six figure debt can pay it back faster by kicking in a fixed percentage of income each year while a lower paid worker can stretch out payments for a longer period . Others suggest retiring a portion of the debt if you work in public service areas such as teaching, government or nursing. My mild suggestion is that people need to know what they are signing. A lot of people who seem to get in to the most trouble are first generation college students. They have been told that a university degree is a ticket to prosperity. I have met a few canny students who have thumbed their noses at loans and take six-seven years to get their undergraduate degrees. They work either full time and take night classes or sometimes skip a semester and work 50 hours a week to pay the next semester or year in full. They do miss out on the “college experience” to a certain degree but they have no financial millstone around their necks. Also, they tend to attend state schools and with in-state tuition are provided with good value.

I feel for these fine young people. They cannot work a nice summer job and even begin to cover or largely cover expenses as they did in my day. Many will (sadly) become angry and bitter if things do not go their way.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Where Have All The Babies Gone?

In the past 10 days three different reports were released which strike me as having a profound effect on the future of our country and, to a certain degree, marketing and media issues going forward. The first was from mainland China. Years ago, Chinese leader, Mao Zedong, instituted a one child policy. The fear was that the country could not feed itself so the population needed to decline over time. As, in recent years, the country experimented with a unique form of the free market, things improved for hundreds of millions and the leaders realized that, with a rapidly aging population, they needed more young people. So, approximately two years ago, they lifted the ban in many provinces that had only allowed a couple to have a single child. Surprise! Since the ban has been lifted there has been no statistically significant move upward in the Chinese birth rate.

In the U.S. the government released figures that stated that U.S birthrates are at a thirty year low. Let us set the stage for a moment. In order to keep a population level, the average women needs to have 2.1 children. This is known as Zero Population Growth (ZPG). The latest data from the U.S federal government puts the birthrate at 1.7545 which is well below ZPG. For years, we often felt that we could hover above ZPG as immigrants would provide the lift above the threshold as they tended to have more kids than citizens born in the states. For whatever reason, that no longer holds true in the last couple of years. While we are now below ZPG, we are nowhere near the low levels seen in countries such as Spain, Greece, Japan and Italy where the statistic can be as low as 1.1. Many forecasters said that once the Great Recession passed, our birthrates would climb back up. That has clearly not happened as we enter our ninth year of economic recovery.

Why should we care? Well, American is not close to being the provider state that many nations in Western Europe are. There is a somewhat frayed safety net here in the states but it is nothing like the cradle to grave security that many other countries provide which will be unsustainable going forward. Young people would pay into social security and medicare and take care of us baby boomers. If there are fewer young people in the workforce, safety net promises will be harder to keep.

The third shoe dropped on May 20, 2018 in the Sunday New York Times. An excellent opinion piece by professors Christina Gibson-Davis and Christine Percheski covered the issue and was entitled, “The Wealth Gap Hits Families Hardest”.

We have all read countless articles about income inequality and, after a while, we have become numb to them, or given their super left wing slant, find them tiresome. This one hit me hard right in the gut. For the first time, I looked at some data regarding families with children. The academics took a  long term look at U.S. Households from 1989-2013 with children under 18 and examined their net worth. Results, to me, were both eye opening and depressing. Here are the highlights:
                     Median Net Worth

Top 1%         $5.2 million

Next 9%         $584, 850

Next 40%         $68, 974

Bottom 50%       -$233

These data are totally in line with several reports that some 40+% of Americans cannot afford a minor medical emergency or a big car repair. Also, the authors raise the scary scenario that when some youngsters start college, their parents may still be paying off college loans.

So, what is happening? To me, it is very simple. Sadly, people are not having children or more children as they cannot afford them. It is not due to selfishness on the part of these young adults. Many are literally up against the wall financially.
If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Advertising Agencies--2028, Conclusions

Here, at long last, are the conclusions to the multi-part series on the future of advertising agencies. The delay in posting was due in part to my being very busy but also the avalanche of mail that I received from readers across the globe.

So, to sum up where my panel members and I have wound up, we find:

1) Virtually everyone whom I spoke or e-mailed with agrees that ad agencies, as we now know them, are not long for the marketing world. The only dissenters were no surprise. They were ad agency functionaries between the ages of 47-57 who were worried about their own hides and claimed that they and their shops were good for another five-ten years. Some will definitely make it. Interestingly, not a single CEO or former agency chief felt that "business as usual" could last much longer.

2) Across the board, a large cross- section of respondents felt that most small to mid-sized agencies will morph into something else. Many used "consultancies" as the likely word although a few cynical types conjured up some exotic names for the new entity. Four were brutally candid and said that on a Friday afternoon an agency will close and then a new smaller LLC will emerge on Monday morning will the same key players but with a new name and same client list.

3) All who mentioned the publicly traded mega-shops hinted or said outright that they would break up over the next several years (Isn't several a great word. It can mean three or 13! A forecaster's dream).

4) Where will the bright young people go? Not to shops, that seems certain. The FAANG's will be where the big ideas are bubbling up in both marketing and media. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google can buy the best talent and will do so. Graduates of the elite schools will gravitate there.

5) I personally was surprised that only a handful of people mentioned the role of Big Data over the next decade. Those who did said it will cut the need for conventional advertising, agencies, and marketing people at many companies.

6) No one, to my strong surprise, mentioned the impact of The Internet of Things. As things get even more connected, prices will drop and squeeze low margin producers. Again, advertising must suffer in that scenario.

Separately, a small market broadcaster weighed in as did an agency chief also in a sub 180 ranked DMA--"small market TV and radio still work here. The problem is that it delivers the older demographic well. Just as is true of the rest of the country our 15-34 year olds love Netflix, ignore commercials while they use another device and listen to music but not much outside of their cars. So, conventional media will hang on a bit longer in our neck of the woods."

A friend whom I first met some 44 years ago, had some comments for me that I feel it is important to share with you. Were we to field a team of media all-stars for the last 50 years, this fellow’s planning skills would make him center fielder. He was and is that good. Here goes:

“Over the many years I have toiled in the fields of media, I have been shockingly aware of our inability, as a group, to not only forecast important shifts in the marketplace but to react to the changes once they happen.

Back in the 1950s and 60s we were mesmerized by broadcast TV.  Sight, sound and motion.  Surely nothing could beat this amazing new technology.  When cable TV entered the fray we were slow to respond and pretty much ignored the presence of this “narrowcasting” upstart.  Do you remember the 7% solution?  That was where agencies would assign 7% of the media dollars assigned to TV spending to cable networks because cable networks at that time had garnered 7% of the total TV viewing.  Not the most inspired creative thinking.  We were slow to respond to the intrusion of VCRs and DVDs and video games – all of which were cutting into SOA viewing TV.  We were slow to respond to online advertising opportunities.  Surely this was just another flash in the pan media option.  More recently we have been slow to respond to the F.A.A.N.G. group that now controls media usage.  Think back 10 years.  How many of you media people were involved with Facebook or Netflix or Google?

Given that historical trend line I think we in media have no idea what is coming in the next decade.  We haven’t a clue what the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg are cooking up in their dorm rooms or garages.  And that’s OK.  What we in media need to figure out is how we can be more receptive to these new media ideas that are being introduced to us on a weekly basis.  We can’t sit on the side lines and tell these new media options, “we’ve got to wait and see how this is received by the public.”  Instead, try jumping into the freezing water with them.  Don’t always play it safe.  It is the brand new ideas that let you reach the trendsetters, the out-of-the-box thinkers, the thought leaders, the people in this world who make waves and make change.  Over the next ten years find ways to say “YES!” to new concepts and avoid the “not yet” or “prove it” kind of responses.  By always waiting for the safe, tried-and-true idea we will always be following the competition and never being the breakthrough leader in the category.

I do think that over the next 10 years media will be in constant flux.  And the area where I think change is going to come is in a reduced dependence on programmatic buying.  Certainly that will always be a key part of any media buy.  Every major advertiser since the end of WWII has recognized the importance and value of looking hard at the CPM numbers.  But looking at “efficiency” and only efficiency is really a short-sighted idea.  In a programmatic world we would all drive Kias and shop for furniture at IKEA.  There would be no place for a Mercedes Benz car or an Ethan Allen sofa.  There would be no value given to quality of the product, a beautiful design or break-through technology.  Consumers don’t buy in a programmatic way so why should we as business decision-makers buy in a programmatic way?  All websites, all TV programming, all print products are not created equal.  Just like in buying a car, people react in different ways to various options.  And how we as consumers respond to Medium A versus Medium B is just as important as how we respond to Transportation Option A versus Transportation Option B.

As media consultants we need to become smarter and wiser about how to find those media properties that work hardest for the advertiser.  That will require more research, more reading, more observing, more talking to people.  That is what our job is going to require moving forward.  The media agencies that are able to determine these kinds of information that can augment the lowest cost/cheapest price/most efficient kind of media thinking are the media agencies that will prosper.  We have pushed the efficiency needle as far as possible.  Now we need to start moving the “impact” needle, the “awareness” needle, the “how does my advertising help my sales” needle in that direction.”

Some people have written to me that this lengthy series was too downbeat. I do not think so. Things are changing and fast. You need to adapt, keep learning or get out of the way. As I first wrote in a memo way back in 1978, “the future has not been cancelled.”

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Advertising Agencies 2028--Part IV

This is part four of a series on the future of advertising agencies. What follows are some of the best comments that I received from the few dozen whom I interviewed or ask for their opinions via e-mail:

An unusually thoughtful youngish media chief who has a reputation for striving to stay on top of changes:

“I was recently with a couple of smart people in the industry, and we were talking about two of the primary dynamics that exist (knowing there are many more than that). On one hand, you have consultancies who can charge premium fees for services but often in a more limited term role. On the other end of the spectrum, you have agencies which are still in the value pricing mode and seeking longer-term relationships. Our thought, was that agencies should evolve to somewhere in the middle. So how do we take the best parts and then how do we weed out the worst? Of course, that is a very simple thing to say. We talk all the time about “solving problems”, but are we set up to solve problems in the best way? Do we talk about it through the eyes of the client?

Lastly, my dad is not in the industry but loves to talk to me about it. He says that even with the rise of automation, there will always be a need for people to think and people to solve problems. So to me, the agencies of the future will need to get back to their roots and focus on what creates the most value for the clients.  The roles that are also found at clients need to go away, and we need to focus on how we compliment them instead”.

A young digital account executive whom I have known for several years and find amusing. He is on fire for the business and commented as follows in two areas:

Due to other economic factors, businesses are cutting hours and benefits. As a result, there will likely be fewer traditional, full-time employees. Instead, I believe agencies will lean heavily on freelance specialists as needed based on ever-changing client and project requirements. When the project is over, the freelancer is done. That’s not to say the same freelancers couldn’t be used time and time again and repeat partnerships are formed between agencies and talent, but from a human capital perspective, the workforce won’t be the same as it is today.

Global teams
Again, partially tied to other business factors. Office space is expensive and talent is dispersed globally. I can see agencies leveraging teams of designers, writers, and developers from hotbeds around the globe to attain the best talent and offset costs. Screen share and virtual meetings will become ever more present than they are today. Agencies will become increasingly specialized.

Even more so than today, rather than specializing in a marketing service that we provide to a wide variety of clients, agencies will provide their services to a very specific industry and will become increasingly ingrained in the trends and strategies within that market. Higher Education for example; many agencies will specialize in higher education and improve at prospecting and lead generation specific to that industry’s user’s needs.

A long time media executive with her feet on the ground and a great sense of humor:

To think about how agencies evolve, I’d first imagine how the sales structure evolves (seeing as that’s where it starts for me!)

- We’re still in the game of delivering content, building audiences, utilizing data (perhaps our new currency vs. today’s NSI data) and monetizing advertising platforms. 

- Our sales force is different.  Fewer sellers, focus is on digital assets (vs. linear cable ad sales).  Maybe we are not focused on selling one market  but have the ability (and capability) to sell multi-market ad campaigns.  There are no geo-fences in the digital world.

- Delivery of commercial content is IP-based, operations at stations (and in cable) consolidated.

- More programmatic opportunities (interactive & linear) also the reason for a reduced sales force.

So the agency:

-  Creative boutique shops will exist, maybe more than we see currently, focused on creating multi-faceted interactive campaigns – video still reigns.  These are the shops that attract the new talent…grads trained on the new next thing (Internet 2.0)?  Bringing ideas on how clients can market their products/services and accurately measure the effectiveness of their ad campaigns.

- Further consolidation of large behemoth groups.  Verticals within agencies exist.  Interactive (digital) departments lead with traditional media departments a thing of the past.  Just as on sales side, fewer planners/buyers.  The survivors are those who know what a digital/multi-screen campaign is and how to best put it together for successful execution.  Accountability to growing the client’s business is measurable and thus, measured.

- The growth of DSPs or Trading Desks at agencies continues as more campaigns are executed programmatically.  (Also a reason for fewer planners/buyers.)

Next, a true gentlemen and sales executive who keeps growing in the business as it keeps shifting says:

“My outlook on the future is that Ad Agencies will likely undergo a cycle of closures, re-organizations and new partnerships.  Today’s environment of discounts and pitches focusing on “we can do it cheaper” and “we’ll handle your account for free” and “we’ll return the media commissions to you” is de-valuing their work, their ability to hire and retain talent, and the value of the media with which they must partner.

Agencies are implying that their own output is cheap by those statements and practices that I have mentioned.  I believe (like every part of our business) that this is a temporary situation, but please don’t ask me to tell you the duration!
We’ve always had lower-priced agency customers, but also agencies that buy high-profile media to achieve the reach and quality audiences that they need.

Don, the world changed and our agency friends and partners are still behaving as if it is the ‘70’s.  Maybe I am giving them too much credit.I work directly with my customers’ CMO’s and marketing teams.  Their store operators and franchisees.  The only agency interaction I have now is with buyers and their supervisors.  Most of that time is spent telling them what their clients wants and needs.  They are amazed that I know so much about their business.  I then asked one Media Director how often she met with her client’s Media Strategists.  Her answer?  You guessed it!  She had never met them.

Agencies may be blind but the company hiring them has some responsibility to incorporate them into their teams, demand engagement and measure results.I am afraid that the kids behind us can never re-make what we’ve experienced because no one is really trying anymore to create success.  They’re all waiting for someone to hand them answers.

Sorry for my rant, you motivated me!”

From a long time media researcher, a different twist:

“If I had to answer in one word: Blockchain.

Any predictive analysis must account for how Blockchain will change the way agencies run.It can potentially even affect how creatives collaborate. I'm not even sure enough is known about it yet. Nor if blockchain is even the revolution that is claimed.
I certainly don't know enough. But I do know the central banks are worried about it”.

You may find the Blockchain comments “out there” but I have known him for over 20 years and find him to be a genuine original thinker. So, I never play him short.

A small market TV general manager asked to weigh in:

“As you know, Nielsen announced days ago that they will not longer measure the Glendive DMA or the Juneau DMA. Big deal, you might say. Well, to us, it means that we will disappear as a DMA within 24-36 months. It does not really matter and the majority of our sales are directs and the local guys do not know how to read a rating book anyway. I do not see us being a programmatic player either. So, what happens? We slowly go out of business. Streaming is catching on big time even out here in the boondocks and our TV station does not work well for clients anymore in many cases. Small agencies and buying services in outlying areas have to die in this environment.”

A senior media research salesperson: “I have had it. When I go in to agencies, the young planners and buyers seem to resent seeing me. I really could help them but there there is little intellectual curiosity about where our data comes from. If I did not have kids in college, I would quit and become a starter on a golf course or something. The agency teams are beyond superficial.”

Conclusions? That will be Part V coming in several days.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Advertising Agencies 2028--Part III

This post is part Three of our series on the future of advertising agencies.

I spoke to both creatives and media people about the future. The comments will be mixed together a bit on purpose.

Creative Director, Mid-Sized Shop—“Over the last decade, both me and my team had a newfound respect for the media folks at our agency. As digital grew, some of our younger people were bursting with ideas and I keep shutting them down and said you can’t do that. After a while they made a beeline to the media team and would ask if they could execute their idea online or in mobile. Sometimes they could and let me know how out of it I was (am). Other times, the media supervisor would say 'no but you could do this which is close to what you want and may work better.' It took me a while but I got the message. Media was no longer the group that got tickets for clients or the boss. They were pros who were engaged in the industry changes. For a while, we had them in to meetings at the early stage of development that we never did before. It was a nice environment.”

Founder, Mid-Sized Shop—“In recent years, I have been monitoring the growth of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). It is not just a new term to toss around. IMC is the blending of Advertising, Direct Marketing, Consumer Promotion, Internet, Public Relations, Publicity and Personal Selling. Don, you have told me directly that a big challenge for marketers will be to determine the proper mix of IMC pillars going forward and each company will be different. I refused to accept your suggestion but now see that you were right. Advertising, due to the advertising avoidance that you discuss a lot, is on a downward spiral. Increasingly, it will take up a smaller portion of the marketing dollar pie. So, the role of creative will be diminished in my view. As Amazon and others grow and hit people directly, their ROI has to be much higher than conventional advertising. My creative director shakes her head in anger when I bring the topic up. It will not happen overnight but it will occur.”

Media Director (with new wave title) at Mid-Sized Shop—“For several years, we pretended we were up to speed on digital. We had some success but eventually our largest client got wise and shifted to programmatic buying with a major player. Their results are light years ahead of ours. We could not compete and conventional media works for us against older demographics but not against the under 40 set. We have had a nice run. I see no way out of it for us.”

Creative Chief, Small Shop—“I am glad that I am getting old. Advertising’s role has to diminish going forward. The Big Data boys at Amazon, Alphabet, Alibaba, Facebook and a few others can reach people with the right message at the right price. It has been great fun but we are in the bottom of the 7th.”

CEO, Small Shop—“Don, I do not dispute what you and others have been saying about the future. The big issue to me is how do we keep the creative and media teams motivated over the next five to seven years. My game plan is to morph in to a consulting firm but the smart ones will have to see what is going on.”

Media Director, Small Shop—“I have a woman on staff who is what you once described as a ‘bust your chops’ negotiator. She is a legend in our small DMA and lives the business. She still gets her pound of flesh (and then some :) ) but her best deals no longer work very well. She is in her late 40’s and refreshingly honest. Last week, she asked me what could she do for the next 20 years? She knows the game is about up. What do I say to her?”

More to come. If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com