The Influence Industry

If we are to believe the doomsayers, what we were doing in these last few years, was actually just trying to keep the decline of the advertising industry under control. This is so sad. I think our industry could be at least three times as big and ten times as influential. The questions ad agencies get to handle these days are a fraction of the situations we should be asked to tackle.

Our big problem is that we spent years telling our clients they should come to us for their brand communication in the media. And there are three big problems with that: 1) FMCG brands no longer are the majority of our clients; 2) Web applications and algorithms have become much more important in influencing our behaviour and our choices; 3) People who look at the world from a financial perspective simply don’t take our pretty brand theories seriously.

I think it’s time to do our creative work in a different way. The value of ad agencies is that we translate our deep understanding of human behaviour into economic added value for our clients.

We understand better than any other industry how people make their choices, how predictably irrational they are, what motivates them, what their mental and emotional barriers are, how seduction, persuasion and conversion work, how you make and break habits and how design, psychology and technology can interact in devising solutions.

If ad agencies present themselves as creative influence experts and designers of human behaviour, we’ll be asked to do so much more. Our services will be needed for management issues, for co-operation, for political influence, for product and service design, sustainability, welfare and social engagement issues… there is no end to this list. So if we’re successful in making this transformation, our future looks very good indeed.


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