Learning to Love Change: What's Your Favorite Future?

Contemplating David Verklin's Latest Vision

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Carat's David Verklin has been hitting the speaking podium again recently, and he's been asking his audiences a simple question: "What's your favorite future?"
Carat Americas CEO David Verklin predicts that search engine data will soon be a key measure of the success of all other forms of marketing. ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
Carat Americas CEO David Verklin predicts that search engine data will soon be a key measure of the success of all other forms of marketing. ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

Search at the center
His, he says, would see the Web become the center of the marketing universe. In the Verklin vision, all communications will be designed to drive consumers to the Web, even where the company doing the hawking does not expect to make the sale online. In such a world, search -- which Forrester Research claims will command the same percentage of ad budgets as cable TV and radio combined by 2010 -- will be a key measure of the success of all other forms of marketing, and in turn will yield purchase-intent-based profiles that will inform online and offline campaigns.

It's a pretty compelling bit of future-casting. The vast majority of marketers and media owners are already employing search as a sales tool, some even as a measurement tool. And I've said in this space before that the smart ones will learn to use search specifically, and the Web in general, to inform their thinking on messaging and choice of media. (The brilliant Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter wrote this week: "In 2008, any presidential candidate with half a brain will let a thousand ad ideas bloom [or stream] online and televise only those that are popular downloads. Deferring to 'the wisdom of crowds' will be cheaper and more effective.")

My favorite future
As a journalist, my favorite future is one in which mainstream video-news media's audiences and ad revenue decline to such an extent that they're forced to either give up pretending to do news, or at least do it differently. In this future, the big-time purveyors of video news -- spurred by an entirely searchable video-news environment and an emerging generation of citizen video journalists -- would ditch their current mix of barely filtered propaganda, fabricated celebrity twaddle and cod-science scaremongering in favor of holding the increasingly powerful political and business elite to account.

By then, the best former print operations would be delivering their content in any form consumers demand it -- video included -- and would have learned enough from their readers' digital habits to have turned their ponderous, predictable papers into easily navigable, compelling, reader-responsive vehicles. Those that didn't would have died. In short, journalism, almost counted out of the fight, would have picked itself up off the canvas and made a remarkable comeback.

I'm dreaming, right? (After all, Katie Couric is now the "CBS Evening News" anchor.)

Dreams into reality
But our ability to make these kinds of dreams a reality today is exactly Verklin's point. Today, technologically driven changes in the media and marketing landscape enable all of us to cook up new futures for our products, companies and categories.

And, I sense, an increasing number of us have finally understood this: Consumer-empowering technology is starting to seem like an exciting opportunity, even for those who once felt threatened by it.

It often seemed that 2004 was the year of the ostrich, with major media owners, ad agencies and even brand leaders taking the head-in-the-sand approach to changes that would turn the marketing the world upside down. In 2005, more and more people seemed to be confronting and starting to understand the new realities, and this year, the stampede toward a new marketing world order is truly under way.

Of course no one knows exactly how it will look yet, which is where you and your favorite future come in. Do you know what yours is yet?
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