Tuesday, 29 September 2009

#IPASocial Principle 9: Change will never be this slow again

(Photo courtesy)

So I've written a few things about the #IPASocial project over the last few months, about how it got started, and how I've had the chance to chat through loads of ideas about the future of advertising and communications with some awesome folks. And now comes the important bit - the time to chat about it with everyone else who is interested. We're going to have a go at doing that in person next week on October 6th when the IPA are running an event to have a chat around what social really means for our industry. We’ve worked up ten principles to start this off, and this introduction (written by Amelia) gives the proper context:

Social Media is a conversation. That seems to be one thing that we can all agree on.

But given that Social Media is a rather noisy and opinionated conversation, what value do we think we will have by adding our voices to it?

We are not Social Media gurus. In fact we are rather sceptical of people who claim they are. We are simply 10 people from across a wide range of communications disciplines in the UK and the US who would like to share some thoughts. Thoughts that have either been bugging us or inspiring us, thoughts that we believe could form some of the building blocks for succesful Social campaigns. We came together to respond to and add our voices to some work that the IPA had done earlier in the year.

We have each defined a Principle which we feel is important in this Social world. You will find each principle up here but they are also on our individual blogs where we will be curating the conversation which we hope they will generate. Please do get involved, maybe you think these principles don't apply, are there better ones? Are there changes that you would like to make? Are there examples that you could add to help illustrate them? The only thing that we ask is that as part of the advertising and communications community that you become part of the conversation. After all the more opinions that are being shared and built on, the more interesting and stronger the outcome. At least that's what we are hoping.

Thank you in advance.

The IPA have created a hub for all ten principles, along with an overall summary of twhy this is important, written by Mark Earls. This can be found here. Everyone who has joined in so far is also hosting a principle on their blogs, so please join in the discussion there too.

1. People not consumers – Mark Earls

2. Social agenda not business agenda – Le’Nise Brothers

3. Continuous conversation not campaigning – John V Willshire

4. Long term impacts not quick fixes – Faris Yakob

5. Marketing with people not to people – Katy Lindemann

6. Being authentic not persuasive – Neil Perkin

7. Perpetual beta – Jamie Coomber

8. Technology changes, people don’t – Amelia Torode

9. Change will never be this slow again – Graeme Wood

10. Measurement – Asi Sharabi

So my thoughts are all around the underlying changes in how people communicate, and particuarly what this means for agencies

IPA Social: Principle 9 - Change will never be this slow again

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again. This shouldn't come as a surprise; Intel founder Gordon Moore observed in 1965 that since the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 that processing power had doubled every 18 months, and predicted that this trend would continue unchecked. So far he has been proved right, and the future of advertising is too closely linked to that of technology to escape the effects of Moore’s Law.

That isn't to say that people are changing. Without paraphrasing too much from Clay Shirky and Mark Earls, all the things we are evolutionarily disposed to do and have a cultural requirement for are simply quicker, easier and further reaching than previously possible. Most of those things are to do with other people, not technology. To get hung up on technology risks missing the point: as Henry Jenkins says,

“Our focus should not be on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural practices"

As an industry we have faced change before; early radio ads were print ads read out. Early TV ads were radio ads in which you could see the face of the person reading. In each case the rise of a new medium provoked a step change in the advertising industry, but one that didn't happen immediately. But each of those media worked in the same way, and the one-to-many assumptions of the 20thcentury about how brands communicate are fast becoming a casualty of the power laws of 21st century networks. While it is fun to speculate on how technology will change behaviour, most examples follow Bill Gates' suggestion that

“We overestimate the change that will happen in the next two years, and underestimate the change that will happen in the next ten”

Interruptive advertising won’t disappear overnight, but each change towards a more networked world will make it less relevant. We can’t predict the impact of new technologies on cultural practice, only prepare our businesses to embrace and foster change rather than reacting to it. Things are happening quicker, including irrelevance. In the words of AG Lafley, former CEO of P&G,

"..our company's success rate runs between 50 and 60 percent. About half of our new products succeed. That's as high as we want the success rate to be. If we try to make it any higher, we'll be tempted to err on the side of caution”

So the real step change for agencies is about not keeping control or making things perfect, it is about embracing business models that constantly evolve and communications that are designed to exist in beta, making the move from what Gerd Leonhard calls “protecting brands to projecting brands’. Charles Darwin said

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

We know that species of animal can remain unchanged for millennia, and then suddenly evolve in a few generations as their environment changes. The increasing speed of communications is eroding the 19th and 20th century assumptions that our businesses are built upon. Leading change rather than being lead by it demands that we don't err on the side of caution.

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