'Young masters' issue challenges

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Scottsdale, ariz. - Question from the floor: How do the big agencies keep up with you interactive guys? Answer from panelist and AKQA co-founder Ajaz Ahmed: "You can't."

"It just slipped out," Mr. Ahmed said apologetically of his combative statement after he left the stage. But actually it was his frank responses, along with some smart insights from aQuantitive President-CEO Brian McAndrews and Google's head of sales, Patrick Keane, that kept the "Young Masters of the Digital Universe" panel from descending into panel-about-the-Internet sameness that often afflicts such generic and digital conversations.

Mr. Ahmed challenged the audience at the 4A's management conference to create meaningful interactive experiences. "This is a seminal moment in history," he said. "Consumers are actually ahead of the producers in terms of content creation. Clients are ahead of agencies, and I think everyone is aware that the 12-year-old ad agency ecosystem has broken down."

He said that brands that kept talking at consumers, rather than with them, and failed to genuinely become better in terms of their impact on society, would be recognized as such and would struggle to connect with audiences. He added a call for diversity in the business.

Mr. Keane also offered a challenge to the crowd of agency CEOs, issuing the now-popular rallying cry that "media needs a stronger seat at the table." His point is that in a splintered media environment, planning and buying are as important-and need to be just as creatively executed-as brand strategy and messaging. "For 20 years it's been the other way around, but today media can drive creativity," he said.

It was Mr. McAndrews who led the way when it came to envisaging the future of the Internet. "One thing is I don't think we'll be talking about Web 3.0 10 years from now, or about online and offline," he said, noting that TV and print are already close to becoming digital media. "Everything will be online."
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