Each year, when asked to contribute to exchange4media’s Rewind, I am hopelessly confused on the brief... never quite sure if I am asked to comment on the year gone by (as the topic suggests) or the year coming up (as the ‘all inclusive brief’ suggests); so, one year I did a review, and the next year I did a way forward. This year, it’s all nice and simple: we are embarking upon a new year and a new decade, so I can review the year and forward-speak the decade!
Having entered the industry in 1988, I have a first-hand experience of the two decades that followed and a ‘through the eyes of my bosses’ understanding of a (prior) third. I believe that puts me in a seasoned enough position to comment on the new one!
There is one very comforting fact about the decades, they are all extremely consistent... consistent in the surprises each year within will throw up! No trend or formula seems to hold for more than a couple of years, keeping us always alert and refreshed. Through the 90s, we thought we were the privileged lot who experienced the biggest changes TV would ever see! And then came the naughts, where television continued to reinvent and surprise us, refusing to go out of style... both in content and delivery. Each year, as we update our ‘media scene’ presentations, we keep adding new updates to the medium! In fact, a fairly robust barometer of a medium’s durability and dynamism is the number of updates that section goes through each quarter in our Power Point decks!
And while traditional TV evolved all through the last decade, somewhere mid-term, digital and the collective ‘new media’ re-emerged. This time round to stay! The new media passed their acid test with honours (the 2009 slowdown). And as we exit the decade, we shall drop ‘new’ from this medium.
I could continue talking about the rest of the mediums; however, for me, the defining story of the decade was not the mediums, but the brands and categories. What set the past decade apart from the 90s was the ‘sectors’ of change; they drove our media plans in completely different directions, away from the FMCG world. The past decade saw a sort of divide of two schools of media mix – one for the FMCG (and like-minded) world, and another for the sunrise tech sectors. And we thought we had mastered our craft... we now knew how to deal with the traditional and with the new; we were no longer afraid to embrace new media just as long it stayed in the realm of new sectors! We nailed it... or so we thought for a short while there. It is only in the recent years that we have seen a true fusing of the worlds.
And that’s what we will take into the New Year and new decade. The media practitioners of today will balance their expertise of the old way with the exposure of the new and build a media perspective that is borderless of old or new media and old or new sectors.
Each year, a new or existing media dimension evolves. Each decade then leaves behind a legacy of skill sets to the next generation of media practitioners; the 90s brought about a dimension to television (satellite) that left us with a legacy of media negotiators – a breed till then unknown to our industry. From this decade, we are taking with us a new breed of (tech-oriented) media practitioners for whom the new media world is no longer new!
In the coming years, the audio-visual and digital mediums are headed toward a cross platform convergence; on the one hand, the digital enhanced television offering new opportunities for engaging viewers, on the other hand, audio-visual opportunities moving out of the TV box into wider digital platforms. We saw the television space evolve in the 90s and the digital space stabilise through the naughts. The next years will embrace this cross-platform convergence of both these mediums and take it to interesting new heights, because we have entered the decade with a breed of practitioners able, capable and willing to make the difference.
And as we get ready to face the immediate challenges of 2011, we look forward to the consistency of the decade’s surprises!
(Jasmin Sohrabji is CEO, Omnicom Media Group.)