It seems like only yesterday I was reading everyone's 2007 predictions and looking forward to all the things 2007 would hold for the media and marketing industries. Now, here we are in December, BusinessWeek's Jon Fine has already broken the seal on 2008, and even though there are still a few weeks left for an industry-rattling bombshell I thought it might be a good time to look back at the things that made 2007, well, 2007.
Here are my picks for the trends that defined the businesses of media, marketing and advertising in 2007.
1) Merger Mania. We've seen plenty of M&A activity before 2007, but this year it seems that a week didn't go by without somebody buying somebody else. Google acquired Doubleclick, creating what will arguably be the largest digital advertising platform and quite possibly the next best thing to an online ad monopoly. Microsoft shelled out a chunk of cash for aQuantive in a deal that brings a large seller (MSN), a large buyer (Avenue A/Razorfish) and supposedly independent third party ad server (Atlas) together under one big conflict-of-interest roof. Not to be outdone (although he was quite clearly outdone), Sir Martin bought ad network seller 24/7 RealMedia for his WPP Group of agencies. Publicis Groupe acquired my alma mater Digitas in a bold play to transform a fairly traditional agency holding company into a digital powerhouse. My head is spinning...
2) Presence and Accounted For. Twitter. Jaiku (acquired by Google this year.) Pownce. Justin.tv. Ustream. Utterz. I could go on. 2007 was the year when the best answer to the question 'what are you doing' was 'checking out the private beta of some new presence application or another.' Susie Homemaker in Peoria most likely has no idea what any of this means, but for the social media cognoscenti 2007 meant discovering all the different ways people can connect with other people, in real time, anywhere bits can be transferred over the ether.
3) Facebook Frenzy. Remember MySpace? Me neither. OK sure, MySpace is still the largest social network but Facebook exploded in 2007. First, Zucky (I call him Zucky) opened up the Facebook API and every ad executive in North America joined up and assembled their network of fake friends. After that, Facebook group and Facebook app became fixtures on just about every brand's emerging media strategy (even though neither of these things is a strategy - they're just tactics - wake up people.) And of course in the past few weeks, Facebook's new Beacon social ad program ruffled some feathers -- although at the end of the day, it doesn't seem like people really care all that much. If you step back and look at this year's social networking developments, Google's Open Social is probably the more important announcement but I don't think we've felt the impact of Open Social yet.
4) The Mobile Year That Wasn't. I vaguely recall a number of industry prognosticators predicting that 2007 would be a boom year for mobile marketing. Every so often, a mobile vendor still tries that line on me and the year is practically over. Just last week, I spoke to a reporter from the AMA who is writing a piece about how 2008 will be The Year of Mobile. Obviously, 2007 wasn't. I'm speaking specifically for the United States here - I know that readers in other regions are already neck deep in a mobile marketing future. The iPhone is really cool (although, no, I still don't have one.) Google's Android and the Open Handset Alliance sound cool too and promise to have broader impact on how mobile devices work. But until we see fundamental changes at the carrier level (including more consumer-friendly practices, more interoperability and more cost-effective pricing plans - fat chance) I don't think we'll see mobile marketing take off the way mobile pundits say it will.
5) The Birth of the Virtual Natives. I just checked -- my MarketingProfs Second Life webinar was held in January 2007. That was at the height of Second Life mania, during which a bunch of brands jumped blindly into SL and after which many marketers dismissed the metaverse as a flash in the pan, even as new virtual world platforms like Kaneva, virtualMTV and others launched. All very interesting, but I am a firm believer in the 3D web not because of these grown-up virtual worlds but because of Webkinz and Club Penguin (acquired by Disney this year.) Millions of five year-olds around the globe spend hours per day interacting with one another, through avatars, across boundaries of geography and time. Just as twenty-somethings and tweens that grew up with the web are "digital natives" that use technology in ways that boomers and even Xers have trouble understanding, today's kids and tweens are "virtual natives" for whom living and interacting in alternate digital worlds may become second nature. Watch this space -- and see what happens when virtual worlds behaviors go mainstream and spill over to other demographic audiences. My sixty-something-year-old mother in New York (who incidentally barely knows how to turn on her computer) already uses Webkinz to connect a few nights each week with her eight-year-old neice and six-year-old nephew in Virginia. Do not underestimate the significance of his trend -- even if you think Second Life is a load of crap.
6) Writers Wronged. As the year winds down, we are suffering through a strike of the Writers Guild and more episodes of Deal or No Deal than any nation should be forced to stomach. For several years, broadcast big wigs have been flexing their muscles with regard to unauthorized online sharing of television clips and crowing about the importance of digital to their growth strategies. This year, the writers -- who haven't been properly compensated for the online use of their talents -- cried foul and brought the production of new, professional (scripted) content to a halt. In the ultimate irony, the advertisers who have remained skittish about running their precious 30s before consumer generated videos on YouTube are now forced to run their 30s during wave after wave of cookie-cutter reality TV programs (which, if you think about it, are just network-curated consumer generated content...) Time will tell whether the strike drives the further mainstreaming of online video, as some have predicted, but even so I think this is a defining moment for 2007.
7) This Space Intentionally Left Blank. For you, of course. Not like that cheesy "YOU" are the Person of the Year or "YOU" are the Agency of the Year -- but "YOU" as in I'd like to hear what trend (or trends) you think defined 2007. So chime in... what would you tag as the 7th trend?