Remember that last scene in the 1984 movie, The Terminator?
It’s set at a remote petrol station and we see a young Mexican boy cry something in Spanish. Sarah Connor asks the older attendant what the boy said and the man says, ‘He said there’s a storm coming.’
Sarah Connor looks into the distance and says, ‘I know.’
Sometimes I look at the ad industry and feel like that Mexican boy. Except maybe nobody understands the language I’m speaking, or they’re just in denial because they don’t want it to rain.
He put up a slide and said, ‘this is what happens when technology meets industries’. He then proceeded to highlight how technology had changed, or in some cases wiped out, entire industries.
I’m sure former employees of Kodak would agree, and no doubt the bean-counters at various music labels remember this when they have to sign huge cheques for Apple every month.
Let’s look at our situation. Most ad people are working harder than they ever have before. And, relatively speaking, they’re probably doing it for less money than they have before. As an industry, we look like all the animals in Madagascar 2 standing around the ever-shrinking waterhole. It’s happening across a lot of marketing and media areas.
So, how can you prepare for the future?
Well, I think we simply have to ask ourselves what industry we’re really in.
Some years ago, I went to another talk given by Patrick Collister. He used the example of White Star.
In 1870, White Star formed and would grow to become one of the largest shipping companies in the world. The Titanic was theirs, but that ill-fated voyage isn’t why they’re not around today. They simply didn’t realise what business they were in. They thought they were in the ‘shipping’ business. They weren’t. They were actually in the ‘transport’ business.
Instead of focusing all their efforts on travel by sea, they should have been carefully looking at a new competitor – travel by air. Who knows? If they had, there might be a White Star A380 asking people to put their seats in the upright position overhead right now.
The ad industry has been preaching their answer for a while now. We see ourselves as being in the ideas industry, rather than the advertising industry.
But let me ask you this: how much of your revenue in the past 12 months has come from non-advertising ideas? How many new products have you put to market? What innovative business models have you introduced? How many patents have you lodged?
For people who trade in ideas, it seems we’re still firmly stuck in the advertising world.
I’m sure my high school physics teacher had seen The Terminator, but he didn’t speak spanish. He just used to say, ‘Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail.’