Having braved today's numbing traffic gridlock, with thanks to the UN General Assembly convening, I attended several morning sessions at Advertising Week .... and there appears to be a decided shift in media thinking taking place.

While the focus of most sessions was the seesawing market and the economy, there was an underlying buzz that suggested the consumer is now in control as the “ultimate integrator” according to Nick Brien, CEO of IPG’s Mediabrands. A more agency-centric view by Sarah Fay, CEO of Carat believing that as agencies become more adept at targeting, specialist services will erupt, developing strategies that are bolted together in “Frankenstein” fashion. Irwin Gotlieb, CEO at Group M, not to be left out, suggests the identification of consumer intent and the ability to act upon it is key. Finally, Andrew Robertson, CEO at BBDO Worldwide turns to the sandbox, watching how kids interact as a predictor of future media habits.

While these and other media and agency luminaries exemplify best-of-breed thinking, insisting it’s all about the consumer and the data, they are not yet themselves fully integrated with their own client’s businesses to have a real impact there.

So who’s driving the bus?
Are the agencies leaders or are they followers? Ask just about any media channel representative. While the agency insists it be included in any direct client interface (and they bristle when not included), they continue, for the most part, to mine the old mine and will continue to do so until the canary dies. The media, on the other hand, prefer to deal directly with clients simply because they can activate a strategy, moving from metrics (upon which we are all too heavily focused) to marketing outcome as a success measure.

Agency behavior must change if they are to survive in some fashion. The media channels and the data aggregators are quickly taking the wind out of the agency sails and will displace them in the short-term. Long-term, agencies run the risk of replacement if they don’t truly incorporate the process of idea integration into their tool chest.

As Wenda Harris Millard, President and Co-CEO of Martha Stewart’s media empire suggested … “The power seat will belong to those that have insight into the consumer.”

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