Current Woes Could Lead to Collaboration Economy

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

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Gloom and doom are everywhere this fall. So I am not going to perpetuate it. Instead, I see the global economic meltdown finally kicking the industry into gear toward becoming more efficient, open and collaborative.

The ad industry is woefully inefficient and siloed. During flush economic times we got proprietary, fat and lazy. Things have to change.

Measurability was the first casualty in good times. It remains a mystery because of a lack of standards. Ask 15 marketers what engagement means, and you will get 30 answers. Everyone's peddling their own methodology -- if they even have one. No one's truly motivated to work together toward a solution.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
Watch for the big trade associations like the Interactive Advertising Bureau to open a broader dialogue than they have to date. Rather than holding closed-door meetings, they will use the internet to encourage participation from all sides so that we can finally set working guidelines.

Research and insights were also sacrificed during flush times. Many brands still attack the digital landscape in a very quick, "get me a viral," tactical way. They forgo taking the time (as in weeks) to develop a deep understanding of a community's wants and needs because, well, it's work.

To really understand the digital space, marketers have to participate in these venues -- and they need to do so all the time. One needs to understand and add value to communities before launching campaigns there. In our agency, this is gospel. But it's not happening in a widespread way yet. Watch for more agency and client-side marketers to start dabbling to build understanding.

Finally, there are huge inefficiencies in the way agencies manage workflow internally, as well as how they collaborate with clients. One-to-one communications such as e-mail remain king. One-to-many collaborative tools such as wikis, internal blogs and microblogs are in widespread use.

With the Association of National Advertisers projecting that 53% of marketing budgets will shrink, things are going to change -- and quickly. Rather than cut digital talent, which remains scarce, agencies are going to break down walls by ushering in new tools that enable their employees to connect with clients, consumers and each other, sometimes in surprisingly open ways.
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