Ian Wishingrad – Advertising in the Year 2020

Ian Wishingrad, Senior Manager, Vimeo

I have no idea what advertising will be like in the year 2020. Not a clue. I’m flattered to have been asked, so I’ll give it my best shot. To give some context as to who I am, I’m a 26 year-old millennial currently working in creative development at Vimeo. Prior to that I worked at three different advertising agencies starting at the ripe young age of 17. I’ve always loved advertising, but left the agency world 9 months ago as I felt their influence to shape the future has substantially diminished. There are still a few incredible agencies that are well positioned to usher in the future, but the rest are simply scrambling.

Hal Riney, a legendary creative, once said “There are a lot of people in this business, but damn few really good ones, and also damn few people who get the chance to do good work.” That statement still stands today and will for a long, long time, as few people can tell a great story. A story is the foundation for every great brand, and so few have them today. Unfortunately, we live in an era where no one has the time, patience, or talent to develop a great story, so we rely on being buzz worthy. Clients think, “at least they’re talking and tweeting about us.” To some degree, that’s true, but having a few good PR hits over a month is not a long-term solution. The solution is telling your story consistently across all media, but it’s structurally impossible today. Every big brand employs a roster of agencies that compete to influence the brand in new ways every week. That’s not good. The way to ensure your brand stays healthy and amazing is consolidation of control; and I don’t mean agency of record, I mean person of record.

What is a person of record you ask? A person of record is the one person that has almost godlike control over the brand. It’s such a foreign and politically incorrect proposition, that chances of it ever appearing on an org chart are zero. However, I contend that all the great work done since the early days of advertising ultimately came down to one person and I don’t see how that will ever change.

Let’s pretend it’s the utopian year 2020. A new electric car brand, Jetson, invites four of the hottest agencies, two of which are still W+K and Droga5, to pitch their business. After a month of battle, we learn that that Droga5 came out the victor and Lauren Cody was named person of record. Lauren now reports directly to the CMO of Jetson and is held personally accountable for all of Jetson’s advertising. She is removed from every other account, is prohibited from pitching new business, and has final say on everything.

As Lauren’s first order of business she hosts an all-agency retreat to Jetson HQ where all those working on the account meets everyone in the company. Lauren lays out her vision and a new org chart – everyone reports to her. Gone are the days of titles. In Lauren’s new system everyone is a creative, each responsible for a different piece of the business. If one person responsible for event marketing has the most brilliant idea for a web series all they have to do is shoot Lauren an e-mail, text, or whatever the newest form of communication is and let the idea speak for itself. If she loves it, she’s only one call away from implementing it. That efficiency will be the most important factor of advertising in 2020.

We all know what it’s like to run into our creative director’s office, share what we believe to be the most genius idea, only to witness its window of opportunity pass before it gets to the client. It’s already happening on Twitter and it’s only going to accelerate from here. By virtue of having one brilliant creative leader with ultimate authority, it drastically reduces the risk of telling the wrong story. Combine that with the hierarchically free creative team and you’ve got the most nimble system a brand can hope for. There’s no way to predict what advertising should be in 2020, but you can prepare for it.