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The future of competitive advantage (or a kick in the pixels)

The future of competitive advantage (or a kick in the pixels)
Lee Woodard, Tribal Worldwide's Managing Partner and Head of Account Management, on the future of competitive advantage.

Ely – ‘The first, tiniest inkling that you get that something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong’ Douglas Adams & John Lloyd, The Meaning of Liff.

Too many articles or blogs of the LinkedIn variety Tell You 8 Important Things You Must Know.

This is not one of them.

This one is a about a little more honesty, a dollop of realistic optimism about the future and a good dose of British uncertainty about the present. A confident fear is well in order when it comes to talking about the state of the current landscape in marketing and advertising. More accurately the collapsing space that is marketing and advertising, technology and consulting.

Yes, we should be super positive all the time, but we all know that a kick in the pixels is only an email or tweet away every minute of everyday.

I believe that many brands live in a constant state of Ely, doubly so when the word ‘digital’ is involved. The Ely is always waiting for you.

Many brands are asking themselves a variation of the following:

  • Who is this new Connected Consumer (and why do they hate us?)
  • Why isn’t it a bit more Don Draper? – advertising was simpler then.
  • Why is our DNA is wrong? (Why oh why aren’t we Uber?!)
  • Why does our technology seem to hate everyone?

If a brand can answer these questions then it has a pretty good chance of having a competitive advantage in its given marketplace.

To look forward to how we solve these questions we have to look back. Don’t ask why, we just do.

Ah, the Past, a glorious place. The world was a much simpler place for clients and their suppliers alike. The consultancies took the budget from the COO and CTO and influenced the financial and operational aspects of the business. The Ad agencies took budget from the CMO and influenced the customer facing aspects of the business. Then digital came along and moved swiftly from interesting backwater to just the way the world works. Digital agencies sprang up that sat squarely between the two 900lb gorillas that had the world carved up between them.

From the ad agency and consultancy perspective, the big guns barely knew each other existed, their paths didn’t cross and the money that paid them was from very different pots.

But then…

…We all know that technology has driven a fundamental change in all brands. Digital technologies are becoming the very foundation of all interactions that a consumer has with a brand. In that context, service companies are simply following the money. The money has flowed from IT into Marketing. Marketing influence over technology spend has grown and it’s for this reason the big consultancies have fired up their ‘digital’ arms and hired people who can speak brand.

We started to see terms bandied about like Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO) – this new client unicorn that can sit effectively between the gorillas (too many animal metaphors, but stay with me) and understand implicitly how technology is changing marketing and spend budgets from both pots effectively. Tough job that.

But we still see hugely successful advertising. Work that appears to be right at the front of the consumers mind whether it’s penguins, meerkats or a dog who’s a cat being a dog (More animals, sorry.). Competitive advantage smashed into the back of the net!

We see digital agencies blending the technical and creative skills that the consultancies and ad agencies find hard to get their head round. With digital now core to the brand, they are getting more and more influence at the highest levels. Digital agencies tend to own the platforms that the brands need to hook the experience up end to end. That’s a competitive advantage right there.

So who will win in the race to own competitive advantage for a brand? Who is best placed to help them answer the key questions; The management consultancy, the advertising agency or the digital agency? Does a client need any of them? Is the consumer so far in front it makes no difference?

I already have an Ely about it.

Lee Woodard is Managing Partner & Head of Account Management at Tribal Worldwide. He sits on the IPA Brand Technology Group. He is writing a book ‘A Kick In The Pixels - The View From The Frontline of Digital Transformation’.

Watch the full session from Advertising Week Europe comprising a specially selected panel debating competitive advantage. Chaired by Paul Bainsfair the IPA DG, it sees David Golding, Co-founder of Adam&Eve DDB, Chris Wood MD at VML, Carlo Gagliardi, Partner at PwC and Dom Collins, CMO at Legal and General, be very, very polite about who might win out for the ownership for competitive advantage as brands ‘digitally transform’.

Last updated 16/03/2015

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