If the world doesn’t end this Friday, here’s a few tips for 2013.

I love Kerrang! radio, it’s positioned itself as the official end of the world station, celebrating the Mayan’s prediction that it’s all coming to an apocalyptic finish this Friday (time and place tbc). If it does they will no doubt have some heavy rocker playing us out. Kind of screws up all those 2013 marketing plans though.

Well, being an optimist, and one of those who believed the Millennium Bug was a load of pessimistic twaddle, here’s a few of my thoughts for 2013.  Feel free to add yours to the comment box below.


Clients are being challenged to make less budget deliver more so I think we may well see brands moving out of expensive big agencies and towards the leaner, meaner independent agency sector, as has happened in Asia. Makes sense as anyone running an independent knows, you need to be a lot more efficient to survive and knowing how to make you own budget go further is second nature. So like minds for clients.


I think we’ll see ads get more entertaining – I wrote a piece recently about advertainment – which means there’ll be more creativity and innovation about. But it may not be coming from the agencies. One of the best ads of 2012, and better than the Canne Lions winning Chipotle is ‘Follow the Frog’ for the Rain Forest Alliance by Max Joseph – he wrote, directed and produce this awesome commercial.

The web is full of brilliant videos, so will ad agencies in 2013 find their biggest competitor isn’t the agency next door by the kid living down the street with a laptop, video camera and Final Cut?

K.I.S.S .

Keep it simple stupid is a great philosophy. So why are we all trying to make marketing more and more complicated?  The cynical answer is that we can sell clients guidance through the haze and charge lots of money for it.

Big data may sound cool but is it really just another empty promise? Will it just confuse everyone and probably tell us nothing we don’t already know? Will it really make you wiser when there are many tried and tested ways to get the same outcome for less cash and less effort?

I think in 2013 most marketers will say “enough is enough,” let’s simplify things because it works better that way, and most want to get home by 6, not spend all evening trying to decode a spread sheet


We’ll see a return and greater investment in the basics – insight, intelligence and good planning.  If you aren’t starting in the right place, you’ll never get to the right destination and there are too many brands who don’t know enough about where they are to know where they are going.

This will give birth to a renewed interest in psychology and tools like AardVark (which uses NLP),  Emotivations (which uses Enneagrams) or the R&E Line. The successful marketer in 2013 will be the smart one. But the challenge for agencies is finding the smart people who can deliver it.

There is a small trend towards planners leaving the restrictive environments of big agencies and setting up as independents, like the media agencies did. This may take off in 2013 or more likely in 2014.


Digital agencies will seek atl agency partnerships to give them the big thinking and allow them to offer marketing strategy. Media agencies will seek creative partnerships (rather than a black book of freelancers) so they can go full circle and be able to offer their clients the execution as well as the media.

We may even see mergers between the medium size independent agencies to give them more clout to compete with the top 20 agencies.


Ok, I wrote that title just to grab attention and raise the blood pressure of digital evangelists. But, truth be told, digital is not the magic wand it once promised to be. Clients are smarter now and know what it should cost. They also know most digital ads don’t work (they get the lowest response rates of any advertising type). And now there’s so much noise, it’s hard to stand out and be noticed even if you are relevant. With that comes a loss of confidence, or maybe more a realism about how to use digital and when and where it’s effective.

Facebook will decline in the West and new alternatives will start to gain traction. And everyone will finally get bored with Twitter (one comedian called it the Reliant Robin of social media) as other technologies arise on mobiles to replace it. And Windows 8 will give Apple a good kicking.


Another title that’ll upset hardcore SM fans – advertising sometimes is like football, different supporters with passionate beliefs.

But it’s a fact that we talk about brands far more in the real world (90:10) than in the virtual and even if online social media can be effective for some brands, the opportunity to influence real world WOM is far more rewarding, especially as WOM is face to face so more influential.  About 10 years ago there was an explosion of people focusing on WOM, Steve Barton being one of the biggest champions in the London scene, and Frank PR being another. Well now’s the time for a come back.


Well given the hype I imagine all marketers who jumped on the social media band wagon, the app band wagon, the gamification band wagon are now preparing to jump on the mobile band wagon. Personally I think mobile is coming the number way point of interaction between consumer and the web, but the challenge is how advertisers can make it work, Facebook hasn’t.


I predict we’ll see a return to traditional techniques and Big Media with TV and outdoor growing again (but with strong digital support) because when all else fails they don’t. Fact is, many of theses channels have been developed over 50 years and are still as effective as ever, especially TV. As Dave Trott points out, an ad on TV competes with 5 other ads, on the web it competes with 5 million.

Creative and clever PR will resurface as it engages people and feed social media. Sales promotion and DM are still as powerful as ever and will see a come back.


Someone will invent something that will redefine everything. It will be heralded as the new thing while the rest of us try and work out how the hell we can sell ads on it. There will be conferences, special reports and overnight experts will appear and flood blogs ands Linkedin with advice.

But as we get to grips with technology there will be a renewed interest in ergopsychonomics.


Clients who have neglected their brands, and those that have built successful online businesses but don’t really have a defined brand, will invest in their brand positioning.  Now I’ve often said that branding is now more defined by the consumer than the company but that just means you need to approach it differently. A recent brand reframing we’ve done we’ve approached very differently to how we’d have done it just 5 years ago. It’s not about a nice logo or a corporate identity guideline (policed by some failed designer Nazi), but about ethos and most importantly, how you behave – what you do says more about you than your ads.


As David Jones (Who Cares Wins) says, this is the age of damage, where brands that don’t behave ethically get slaughtered in the press and in social media – just take Starbuck’s recent tax fiasco – which made people think it wasn’t all about green, human ethics is more important to the media. I think this isn’t an age but a constant, there’s nothing new about brands getting crucified in the press for poor ethics. Acting ethically isn’t a bolt on or an option but a requirement. Consumer now have the power to use the pound in their pocket to make a point not just a purchase. And a kid with a $600 laptop can bring down a $6m campaign overnight.

So 2013 will see more brands get the Starbucks treatment and others desperately trying to act responsibly. The key will be putting ethics at the core of the business not just in the communication plan or the CEO’s speeches.

Maybe if we are lucky, that over used ‘sustainability’ word will be replaced with a plain English alternative.


I think we could well see the UK reclaim its place at the top of the world creative table in 2013. It may not come from the advertising industry but from any of the sectors within the creative economy, which is our second biggest economy. Either way, it’ll inspire others and we’ll see a new enthusiasm as we shake off the recession and start pushing the bureaucrats back and the boundaries forward.

Well, just a few predictions but a I said earlier, if the Mayans are right then advertising will be the first against the wall when the apocalypse comes. Personally I’ll be at the end of the world party at the World’s End pub in Stroud Green.


Come Friday 21st the world didn’t end. Same time next year?