Debbie Morrison: Turn and face the change

Debbie Morrison is Ebiquity’s managing director for global partnerships and events, based within its London office.

Joining in 2019 after a long spell with ISBA, Debbie now leads Ebiquity’s collaborations with key trade bodies, as well as facilitate client events, roundtables, and other key client forums to ensure its clients have access to the latest industry best practices and solutions.

Facing change, Ebiquity’s Debbie Morrison discusses how the ad and media sectors are evolving

There’s a lot of talk about change in the media and marketing industry right now. Whatever you read, whoever you meet, whichever events you choose to attend, the only guaranteed constant is change. Change in your own market and right across the world.

And the ways in which the world is changing are numerous.

Changes to available media, consumer channels, and tech platforms, with new shifts happening almost every week. Changes to technology, data, and regulation; from the right to be forgotten to GDPR. And changes to the client-agency model, with more or less in-housing versus less or more outsourcing. The locus of control for marketing services is shifting about like never before.

The debate about the state of flux in the modern marketing ecosystem often has another constant partner: the undercurrent of fear, including fear of missing out. The standard rhetoric of many of the merchants of change is that marketers should fear the forces that threaten to disrupt how they go about building and growing brands. Often, the only salvation presented is the particular solution that an individual vendor is offering to make sense of all this change.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that the world’s natural state is one of constant change, saying 2,600 years ago that “everything flows” and “no person ever steps into the same river twice”. Change is not, therefore, anything new. But what does appear to be genuinely new in media and marketing is the rate of change. Advances in data processing power, technology, and AI have automated many tasks that were laborious and time-consuming. With those taken care of, more profound changes can happen more quickly.

In dealing with my own personal career journey, and until very recently, I subscribed to the change-means-fear world view. After all, I was with ISBA for 29 years, most recently as director of consultancy and best practice. Yes, I had many different, evolving roles at ISBA, changing focus and responsibilities in part in response to the winds of change blowing through the media and marketing industry. My role was to help advertisers adapt and evolve to the shock of the new, but I did this in the same job and the same organisation.

But after the best part of three decades calling the same body my weekday home, I took the decision to change – and change quite fundamentally – at the end of last year. Since the start of 2019, I’ve been getting to grips with a totally new role as managing director of global partnerships and events at Ebiquity. And in the first couple of months spending time with my new colleagues and clients, I have to say that my attitude to change and how I apply it to my own career has gone through a 180-degree about-turn.

More than ever, I believe that change and the breakneck rate of change in media and marketing present today’s marketers with an incredibly positive set of opportunities to be always resetting and reframing how to face the future. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve witnessed first hand the launch of two innovative reports that can help advertisers do just that.

Our 'TV at the Tipping Point' study puts forward the first evidence that the ROI advantage enjoyed by linear TV for decades may well be a thing of the past at some point between now and 2023. While this doesn’t mean advertisers need to stop advertising on TV – the mainstay of brand building for several generations – it does mean they may need to revise and diversify their media plans to stay ahead of the pack.

And our 'Cutting through the Clutter' white paper on the role of digital attribution in overall marketing effectiveness, co-authored and published with ISBA, busts some popular myths about attribution. In so doing, it encourages marketers to redress the long-term versus short-term imbalance in marketing spend that has dragged many brands away from Binet & Field’s ideal 60/40 investment ratio. Too much short-termism is benefiting very few brands.

The rapid and accelerating pace of change in media and marketing doesn’t require brands to fall prey to shiny new object syndrome and change for change’s sake. It doesn’t demand throwing the baby out with the bathwater – although it may (to torture an analogy) require a steady hand on the baby while you change the water, the bubble bath, and very likely the bathtub, too.

In my own recent career change, I’ve not only realised that transformation can happen quickly but that you really can teach an old dog new tricks. Marketers who embrace change will inevitably learn the same lesson.

Debbie Morrison is managing director, global partnerships and events at Ebiquity. She tweets on @DebbieMorrison3

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