Look Back/Look Ahead: This is the golden age of media opportunity, says Staples

Rethink topper Chris Staples says traditional media is in rough shape, but it's not clear that the Internet can deliver television's mass emotional experience without spending a lot more money.

MiC asked industry pundits to reflect and opine about what happened in 2008 and prognosticate about what 2009 may bring. Stepping up to the plate today is Chris Staples, founder and co-CD of Vancouver’s Rethink.

MiC: What are you spying on the horizon in ’09?

Ad agencies are about to get into the software applications business in a big way. The iPhone Apps Store has 10,000 applications right now, with dozens sponsored by marketers. This fall, some of the top free apps were games sponsored by Carling Breweries and Audi. This is just the beginning. RIM and Google are both launching similar services for their mobile devices. It won’t be long until most brands offer some kind of app – the trick will be to make them truly useful or entertaining.

MiC: What ’08 happening did you particularly applaud?

It’s great to see more marketers realize that they can’t stick to the tried-and-true formulas. Having a strong ‘call to action’ or ‘reason to believe’ is beside the point if people fast-forward through your message on their PVRs. Consumers have all the power now. Marketers are realizing that entertainment value is essential if you want your message to break through the clutter. This is great news for agencies that have always believed in the power of a big idea.

MiC: What worried you most during the past year?

The traditional media are in rough shape, with enormous pressures on their decades-old business models. Yet new media still have a lot of kinks. Television advertising is the most efficient emotional medium ever created. It’s not clear that the Internet can deliver that kind of mass emotional experience without spending much more money.

MiC: What’s the next big opportunity?

This is the golden age of media opportunity. There’s never been more chances to break new ground. It’s a great time to be in our business.

MiC: What’s the next big looming threat?

While opportunities to innovate abound, so do opportunities to make expensive mistakes. Social media is a great example. You can spend a lot of money on Facebook applications, without a sure return on investment. That’s the downside of this Wild West Media Age.

MiC: What trends or issues are you spying for ’09?

There’s a lot of pressure on clients’ budgets – from both a media and a production point of view. The media pie has a lot more pieces these days – and every channel needs its own creative materials. That can put a lot of pressure on clients’ marketing budgets, which are in most cases the same (or less) than a few years ago. We have to find more affordable ways to produce more work for more mediums. This means keeping your messages smart and simple (which is easier said than done).

MiC: Any other observation to share?

I think every campaign needs to include some kind of guerrilla element – mostly to help attract press attention. If you do something new and innovative, you’re going to get coverage. A few stories in the news are worth a week’s paid media. I think agencies need to remember that their target audience is more than just consumers – it should also include reporters.