Agency Disruption

How To Anticipate Disruption (Hint: Ask Alexa)

Disruptive technology is forcing the way we work with consumers to change forever.

Voice activation, AI and consumer data trends are disrupting the advertising industry.

Here’s why, how and what to do about it. (So you don’t end up down a deep dark disrupted hole of Alexa’s saying, ‘told ya so!’)

Like it or not, disruptive technology dictates the way agencies operate day to day.  To stay ahead and be ahead of the game in 2018, it’s essential to keep up on your ‘disruption knowledge’ at all times and leverage any new trends for better results in your first quarter.

As you all probably know by now, the ‘disruptive tech boom’ has meant that businesses, in-fact, entire industries have had to change the way they work.

The communications industry in particular, has had to strategically change the way they approach their trade. Ads no longer work traditionally and it’s been a long time since the move from TV, print and radio advertising to digital.

The next chapter for advertising

Disruption is Alexa
Image: Rahul Chakraborty

The next chapter for digital advertising takes into account that people generally don’t want ads to look like ads. No, they want to interact and to know they can immediately make gains from ads. For example, Pretty Little Thing, (which ties in traditional marketing billboard ) with online marketing to deliver an engaging message ‘Want free clothes? Visit @prettylittlething’. It’s simple, provocative and effective. This type of marketing is disrupting the advertising world as we know it.

No industry is safe from disruption.

For example, the shared economy has the likes of Air B&B, Bla Bla Car and Uber. If you don’t see it coming, then it’s already too late.

What to expect from disruptive technology in 2018

In 2018, it’s time to fully acknowledge that the structure of advertising agencies has changed. In the past, ad agencies used to be built on relationships. Now, they’re built on data. This agency strategy, is just one-way disruption, as a ‘new approach’ can bring down industry giants. Especially with the availability of open social network’s API’s, providing a ton of market data for businesses to work with.  

Disruption in 2018 is based on this new approach. A shift in the macro-environment, be it advances in technology, political infrastructure, customer preferences and market demand, makes this ‘new approach’ possible. If a business fails to recognise change coming, or does, but instead uses old techniques to react, then they’re at risk of having the carpet pulled from beneath them. Especially if they don’t have a strategy in place to deal with it.

Kodak for example, failed to respond to disruption in the form of the Digital Camera boom of 2005. They had infamously already created their own model back in 1975, but at the time, decided not to pursue it based on timing and market demand.

Adjusting the way advertising works

Advertising agencies have had to rapidly re-mold to face disruption successfully. The world of paid classifieds, (even though still lucrative with a large share in the market ) has been totally disrupted by free advertising sites like; Craiglist, Etsy and Facebook Marketplace. In fact, classified ads in newspapers lost $15 billion in revenue due to Craigslist becoming a disruptive service between 2000 and 2012.

This is why fully embracing a new approach in an attempt to stay above water in your industry, is more important than ever.  

Can you accurately anticipate disruption?

The best way to prevent being ‘disrupted’ is to identify how new threats will appear, ways in which your market could be disrupted and when or what will occur to create a ‘catalyst’ for disruption in your market. Your best bet? Turning the threat into a positive opportunity and to be prepared at all costs.

Deloitte produced a recent study highlighting the ways businesses can anticipate disruption and be ready to make changes.

They discovered ‘9 Patterns Of Disruption’ as seen in the below diagram. These patterns are reliant on an alternative approach by businesses in the way they create ‘new value’ in changing market conditions.

patterns on disruption

We think, that when the threat of disruption is slotted into context, it’s just a simple process of identifying patterns and devising a strategy to move with the disruption, rather than against it.

As discussed in the Deloitte study, three strategies to consider when preparing for a disruption in your industry and therefore help prevent financial and social disaster are:

  1. Consider and assess current market conditions. Ask yourself, which disruptive trends is your business at risk of?
  2. Identify exactly where to look for these threats. The 9 patterns of disruption help with this. Then make sure to quickly and efficiently act on them.
  3. Leave the past, in the past. You can no longer anticipate and forecast from what’s been done before. Look at what’s happening now, to plan for the future.

Disruptive trends to embrace

Agencies using AI
Image: Andy Kelly

As Damian Pincus, Founder of The Works recently said; ‘Australia’s rapidly growing digital economy has been valued at $79 billion or 5.1% of GDP – bigger than traditional industry sectors such as agriculture, retail, and transport – and it’s forecast to grow to 7.3% of GDP by 2020. It’s more relevant than ever to embrace change in the digital infrastructure.

Behold, our take on the 3 most disruptive technologies that will impact your agency in 2018.

1. The ‘AI First’ Strategy

As we’ve discussed, shifting the way you strategise for disruption, is an important factor in being prepared for change.

So, we don’t have to introduce Artificial Intelligence, you all know how that works by now. What we also know, is that AI has the potential to be at the centre of digital businesses in 2018. The ‘AI First’ strategy was embraced by Google in 2017 and has been copied by many other larger corporations since.

Why? To increase the quality of services, fine tune and organise data collection and eliminate time consuming administrative tasks. AI has, in the past been scare-mongered in the media for being a threat to jobs. Now, companies are flipping this mindset and using AI to actually improve and create jobs.  

2. Personal data value platforms

‘What is relevant, is the work they make and the value they create for their clients.’ – The Monkeys Group CEO, Mark Green

These days, it’s common as consumers, to actively by-pass even the most well thought out data collection techniques used by brands especially if we’re unsure why it will be used, or how it will benefit us. Because, at the end of the day we know that our personal data is a valuable asset for businesses, and we’re not just giving it to anyone.

That’s where ‘personal data value platforms (PDVP’s)’ swoop in. These new developments are on hand to transparently inform consumers about the true value of their personal data. This creates ownership, and we like that.

As consumers, we like to feel safe too. That’s why recent legislation alongside PDVP’s has been brought in. Legislation such as GDPR ensures the consumer’s data is protected by strict data protection regulations at all times.

Voice activated search
Image: Kui Ye Chen

3. Voice activated search

‘Alexa, make me the best coffee in town.’ As much as we would love it, voice-activated VA’s in the form of Alexa, Siri and Google Home still aren’t able to fulfill our basic needs…oh wait, nope, they’ve done that too. With the up-rise of, and increased confidence in voice-activated VA’s and search technologies, it’s imperative that they’re at the centre of your business in 2018. Just like Amazon and Google, businesses that utilise voice-controlled technologies are now able to build a direct link between them and their consumers.

‘Search by voice will be democratised. A few brands will find a really innovative way to use it. Other brands will then see the case studies, and say “wish I made that” ‘ – Mark Cochrane (MD, Saatchi & Saatchi)

How will voice-activated search work for advertising?

By using data more effectively to place well-targeted ads via voice-activated technologies. The Amazon Echo for example, is able to capture user behaviours and personal preferences, then create the perfect ad opportunities for consumers based on searches and requests. Google are also leveraging this. They’ve been said to be rolling out strategically placed ad’s via Google Assistants. This comes after they supposedly used an ad to publicise the release of a new Disney movie to select Google Home users, back in March 2017.

Could 2018 be the year for voice-activated search to capture more consumer data and target ad’s via a new medium? You better plan for it, or risk being totally disrupted (and not in a good way.)

Be prepared, strategise and ride the Unicorn.

chase the unicorn
Image: Raw Pixel

‘While the pace of change is accelerating, so is the ability to capitalise on these trends and to rapidly reroute your business and profitability from a disrupted track to a transformed course.’ – Daniel Hodges, Consumers in Motion Group

So as always, being prepared with strategies, knowing your market and being on top of your game with emerging technologies, all play a vital part in preventing disaster caused by disruption. But, re-considering your mentality in regards to the consumer is the first step.

Strip back your relationship between the customer and completely reevaluate how you will create value for them, now. Then, look at what is possible tomorrow, next week or next month? Which disruptive technology or service will be fully worth leveraging to compliment your goals this year? Only you can determine the best way to disrupt disruption. In a world that’s constantly trying to mould you, mould it, instead.

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Helen Johnson
+61 404 458 797


Christian Arpe-Hansen
+45 31 36 66 03