Digital Disruption: How’s It Going For You?

“The ad business is going through a change not seen in three decades.” – Judy Shapiro
Judy Shapiro is a veteran marketing exec and Chief Brand Strategist at CloudLinux, a Linux-based OS for technology service providers. In her latest piece for Ad Age, she argues that we’re moving from a one:many web to a many:many web and that a lot of media companies are quietly being crushed by the changes underway.

…utterly seismic forces that are quickly rendering the “one:many” Web 2.0 content site nearly obsolete as the world migrates with dizzying speed toward the social rich, interactive “many:many” next gen internet web experience that is a seamless mashup of community, connectivity, commerce, content, real-time interactivity and portability. In this “many:many” world, an “interaction engine” curates the user experience — not the content itself.

Writing on her blog, Trench Wars, Shapiro goes further and points out the problem not just for media companies but for agencies, as well.

While the business has gotten more complex, agencies are trapped in an old “one:many” business model and have no clear way to evolve. Clients do not pay often for agency’s’ technological learning curves. And agencies can not charge $10,000 for a bunch of twitter updates (and sleep peacefully at night).

I might add it’s not just pricing structures that are bending to the point of breaking–agency culture is also in the web’s crosshairs (because the nature of our work is changing). There was a time not too long ago when I spent a good deal of my time making print ads, radio spots and in-store displays. All of those things still matter, but none of them are as pressing as figuring out what clients need to be doing each and every day on Facebook, and on their own sites that also run on a steady stream of content updates.
There are many interesting angles in this storyline, but one that keeps surfacing for me is the fact that agencies with a content focus are fast becoming hybrid media companies. At the same time, media companies, particularly local media companies like a city’s main newspaper, are increasingly offering marketing services as a way to boost revenue.
Editor’s Note: I explored similar topics earlier this week on
I wrote: “Today, the mission remains the same–connect with a brand’s best prospects and current customers and deliver them the information or entertainment they most desire. It’s the same mission, but the prospects and customers are now social, they’re mobile and they want whatever it is they want NOW, not in five minutes.”



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.