Six. That’s the number of agencies that have asked me a variation on the question: “How
will the traditional advertising model change in the coming months?” during the employment application process.

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The answer to that question is: yes, it will, and in unexpected ways. The agency model will change because we live in the information era in which trends are born on news feeds and timelines. Social movements can sweep very rapidly from coast to coast with a single post. While there has been little change in the traditional agency model (shout-out to Grey Adventures for shaking up the model), consumers have broken through traditional social norms. These changing norms demand faster responses to their trends from brands and their marketing teams.

  • Legal Marijuana: Likely to be a big contender in 2017 with 4 states recently moving to legalize recreational use of the drug. So how are agencies going to adapt to this growing market opportunity? Will the traditional “big boy” agencies seek out marijuana dispensaries as clients side by side with their financial or pharmaceutical greats? Or will neighborhoods see an influx in new shops opening up that specialize in building (or planting) emerging marijuana brands without fear of the stigma that surrounds the industry? I foresee great market opportunities for creatives and strategists to break away from the more traditional, larger agencies and open their own specialty shops to capture the business of this soon to be 8 Billion Dollar per year industry.
  • Millennials: Yes, that’s right: the dreaded bunch (myself included). During a recent conversation with a senior marketing manager, our discussion turned from the familiar industry dialogue toward a more inquisitive one. The tone suggested that many marketers are unsure of what’s next with this generation. Millennials may not follow the same demographic and psychographic trends as we have seen with past generations, but they are fluid. They are exceedingly loyal and preferencial when it comes to brands, which further drives their demand for unique and individual experiences. I frequent brands that make me feel like I am an individual, unique from my peers, and not just a number on revenue reports. Ultimately, this means that agencies must tailor communications strategies to individuals, rather than setting demographics at a high, unfiltered level. Successful agencies will need to leverage CRM marketing initiatives and tailor copy to speak to the individual preferences within the consumer, not the wallet in their back pocket.
  • Disappearing Gender Norms: It’s timely that brands have finally made strides toward removing traditional gender norms from their products and marketing. Most notably, Cover Girl recently debuted its first ever Cover Boy. No longer is the company sticking to traditional social norms and avoiding cultural taboos. This company is making a statement that brands will begin to allow consumers to define the target demographics for their products. The trend of disappearing gender norms has spread to other personal care brands as well. Premium beauty care brands, such as the Art of Shaving & Kiehl’s, have led the charge targeting their marketing and products towards men as social stigmas regarding self-care have been destroyed. The emerging market of men’s beauty care and maintenance products will continue to drive entrepreneurial investment into new companies and extend existing traditional feminine product lines of dominant companies to men. The creative work published by agencies must match evolving consumer expectations rather than pushing traditional social norms onto the market. Consumers reported appreciating “real advertising” from brands, such as Bodyform, that don’t shy away from incorporating an unfiltered life into their creative work. This trend is likely to extend into male beauty care as disappearing gender norms convey to male consumers that it is ok to take the time and use products to enhance appearance.

These three trends are just a few of those posing an upset to the traditional agency model. With social trends and demographics changing at the blink of an eye, agencies must look within and ask themselves if they are fluid enough to adapt to these changes before other competing agencies swap out the traditional model (known for the lag time between creative ideation and execution). To all potential employers out there asking questions of their applicants, weigh the insights provided by Millennials and commit to adapting to new trends and changing the way your agency operates to stay relevant and competitive in this ever crowded marketplace that we will soon call 2017.

I would like to wish a Happy New Year to all of my readers, colleagues, family and friends. May we all adapt to changing times and charge into 2017 with innovative and open minds.

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand strategist based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

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