3 Areas Our Industry Needs to Address to Stay Relevant in 2020

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Article Takeaways:

  • Some thoughts on regaining consumer trust
  • We need to move toward more human-centric design processes
  • Cognitive diversity does not mean inclusivity

So, the days are shorter, we’re now less than a year until the presidential election, and the holidays are fast approaching.

As we reflect upon the year behind us and plan for the year ahead, it’s worth thinking about where our industry will evolve in 2020 and beyond. “The best way to predict the future is to study the past”, said Robert Kiyosaki, bestselling author, and businessman. So, in order to address our historical ills and navigate a path for our industry’s future, here are three areas we need to move towards:

Move towards regaining trust. The last few years have been brutal for digital advertising’s reputation; we’ve seen multiple major data breaches and apathy toward consumer privacy from some of the biggest technology giants.

The major players including Facebook have taken steps toward regaining the trust of consumers, brands, and Congress. For the most part, I believe them. However, much more needs to be done by the industry as a whole. We’ve been conditioned to viewing consumer data as a commodity to be exploited. It’s critical that we change our mindset and put consumer empathy at the center of our worldview.

Move towards consumer-centric innovation. Remember when QR codes came out? Agencies and brands jumped into action. We witnessed QR codes on the subway where there was no cell reception or simply directing people to a Facebook page. What was the point?

We need to move towards a human-centered design mindset; ensuring that we understand our consumers’ needs/wants/pains/gains to create an experience that truly meets their needs. Otherwise, we’ll keep whittling away resources, time, and trust on tactical technology-led applications that add zero value. Or worse, find more ways to interrupt our consumers’ lives in ways that will annoy them even more.

Move towards cognitive diversity. I want to make a distinct point between hiring for cognitive diversity and simply hiring people from different gender, ethnicity and age groups. The former prioritizes building a workplace based on diversity of thought by attempting to understand different ways people approach problems. The latter makes the lazily incorrect assumption that distinct demographics think uniformly.

A few months ago, I visited the campus of a big tech company and heard from their Chief Diversity Officer. I was initially impressed by her efforts at spouting research indicating that teams with diversity of thought perform better than homogenous teams. Toward the end of the presentation, I was dismayed by the declaration that the company defined “Hiring for Diversity of Thought” based solely on veteran status, disability status, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. As a person of color, I find the assumption narrow-minded that my ethnicity determines the way I think.

For our industry to stay relevant and thrive over the next quarter-century, we have a lot of work to do. Providing a true value exchange to consumers, taking data privacy seriously, and respecting their rights will regain consumer and societal trust. Developing a cognitively diverse industry will ensure not only an inclusive environment for all but more effective communication outcomes for brands.

It’s critical that we adopt a reflective mindset, analyzing the errors of the past in order to improve our future. Here’s to the holidays and 2020!

Jeff Tan

Innovation Solutions Officer at Dentsu Aegis Network

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1 Comment
  1. So applaud your commentary on cognitive diversity. Those who think differently are an enormous part of our industry and the ingredient that makes it work.I must admit I have a bias in that I co-founded, along with my colleagues from Droga5 and The Advertising Club of NY and with the help of supporters from all the holding companies and The Advertising Week team Creative Spirit http://www.creativespirit-us.org, a non profit that provides candidates with different cognitive abilities jobs at the best companies in the world. The results have been extraordinary as we have put forward all kinds of diversity through the Creative Spirit lens. Creative Spirit candidates are provided coaches who work with both the hiring company and the candidates to make sure they not only get hired but are retained. So far we have 100% retention of those we’ve place in their positions 1+ years ago. Excited to see your post as this is so often overlooked in the diversity and inclusion conversation.

    Afterall, what’s more creative than being different? #hiredifferent

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