I was called for an interview related to the sweeping changes we’re experiencing as marketers. Specifically, I was asked what needed to change inside agencies.

My answer: “We need to embrace complexity.”

Over the past 20 years, digital networks have opened up the number of ways we can reach people. The crazy thing is how fast the changes are coming now, especially when you consider how little change there was during the first 50 years of TV. With all the possibilities, the hard choice rests on the agency. And not surprisingly, agencies are changing more slowly than the people we’re trying to reach.

It’s time to think harder.

In 1952 the top-rated television show was ‘I Love Lucy’ with a Nielsen rating of 67.3. That show was the highest rating of all time for any series. Now imagine that, on average, 67% of TV households tuned into the same show at the same time — and saw the same Coke ad.

It was much easier then as the TV industrial complex, as described by Seth Godin, aggregated the audience, brands, and messages in a nice tidy place for marketers to cope with. As the message spread, the brand grew, products sold, and more ad budget was created to continue the cycle.



Fast-forward to today and the top show is Sunday Night Football with a rating of 12.3. Clearly the audience has fragmented steadily since the 1950 (source), and yet here we are, still behaving like it’s 1952. Wishing that it were still that simple.

We need to be smarter and think with greater intensity.

We need to wake up and smell the complexity.