Mark Pollard: 9 trends to look out for in 2009

Mark Pollard is currently Lead Digital Strategist at Leo Burnett and has worked across a stack of great campaigns, including The Name it Burger for McDonalds.

On top of this he is a great guy and thinker. He also introduced me to some fantastic music in the early 90’s through his magazine, Stealth.

Here are his thoughts …

1. Gen X digitises or retires
I still find it amazing how many Gen X-ers in critical leadership roles in businesses everywhere don’t get, care about or use digital media. How can they make informed decisions without dirtying their hands and spending time with it? Calling people who use Whirpool “propellerheads” – shame on you! Internal training will not fix this. Career instability will. Use it or disappear.

2. Media companies merge marketing departments
Many media companies still have 2 marketing departments: one takes care of the website (it should be ‘digital’ but few have ventured boldly into the space despite resources and opportunity), the other takes care of the print, TV or radio version. These departments with conflicting interests will be merged around the country in the next 6 months. It will be interesting to see which skillsets take the ascendancy.

3. The metrics struggle continues
What gets measured gets done. We all know this but the ostensible complexity of the ‘new world’ challenges companies to find new things of importance to measure in new ways. This is exciting. A new breed of analysts will emerge and cease being backroom players in their organisations. The challenge will be for heritage companies with old ways of doing things to embrace new measurement models that help inform better decisions and don’t just create additional noise.

4. Content ideas over ad ideas
‘Content’ is misunderstood by many. The Adidas house party campaign ( is content as much as the Huggies online forum ( is. I feel that there is fear in creative agencies that any mention of content leads to blogs, forums, boring stuff – rather than reinventing what content could be about for brands.

5. Silver bullets continue elusiveness
Either through a lack of resources, comprehension or interest, many people continue to search for silver bullets to solve marketing problems – from TV, email, killer apps, portal websites, ‘viral campaigns’, mobile to social media. Businesses need to commit to ongoing engagement with their customers – not one-off campaigns. Campaigns still have a role but not in isolation. Oh, make better products and improve the customer experience – two nearly-silver bullets right there.

6. C-Level management cleanout
In businesses all over the world, there is a generation of leadership that’s spent too much time playing golf and sailing yachts. Obama, while a symbol of this generational change, will simply be the first of a new generation of leaders in all areas of life that thrive on big ideas and use collaboration not as a patronising sedative but as a way to generate real results and change. Wikinomics will rule.

7. Smarts over job titles
Think of all the smart people you know. Then think about their job titles. Chances are they offer more to the business they’re in than their job title stipulates. You can call them T people ( or whatever you like. They will make job titles redundant and find businesses to contribute to that don’t value empire-building, silos or restrictions. Keep them next year if you have them.

8. Digital grows up
More and more people with real digital experience and skills will be ushered into leadership roles in 2009. The challenge for businesses will be finding people with the right balance of skills and leadership ability. The agency world has not been very good at developing leaders internally. Gen Y will force this to change… or they will keep leaving your workplaces.

9. Recession makes people happier
2008 and 2009 will be a time for a lot of reflection. Have we become too greedy? Have we allowed our egos to take the driver’s seat? Is this sort of life and society what I want for the rest of my life? We’ll all recalibrate – some people will disappear into South America for the year, others will study, many will consider finally committing to that idea, that dream they’ve been putting off for so long. We’ve all longed for simpler, more fulfilling times for years – maybe 2009 is the year.

More Mark …

Liam says: On agencies developing leadership. Interesting perspective. I think I speak for most non Gen Y managers when I say this recession means we will no longer care when Gen Y employees leave.

Actually that is not true, we will care, it will be the type of caring that carries a broad smile.

Those Gen Y who think changing jobs every 18 months is about reflecting their true value may embrace a new philosophy as they compete with 20 or 40 other Gen Y candidates for scarce roles in 2009.



18 responses to “Mark Pollard: 9 trends to look out for in 2009

  1. Great point with #9. I really think that’s the way folks are heading. I was made redundant last week and the resulting payout has now opened up doors that previously I thought were closed for the time being.

    Also, I 100% with #3, #7 and #8. I was/am in Content/SEO for a major bank, and finally they were starting to see the benefits of metrics. Job titles have been damn near irrelevant for a while now, I can’t think of anyone who strictly operates with one these days. And I hope you’re right about folks with digi experience – the recruitment consultant seemed to think that there’s a lot of candidates and not a lot of jobs, so here’s to hoping 2009 will bring about more opportunities.

    Great post!

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  3. I am not sure the video you link to in No.4 has a lot of meaning for anyone who has never had contact with the hiphop subsculture. There are ooh and ah moments, but the message will take a while to hit home unless you understand how Russell Simmons, DMC, Missy, Redman, Meth etc are tied into brand Adidas.

    However, it’s great content at the end of the day.

  4. these all sound about right. I don’t know much about advertising industry, but I like #9 the best. the other one I’ve heard predicted (for past couple of years, but more & more since this recent ‘crisis’) is that micro-finance &/or alternative local finance systems will start to be used more.

  5. @Liam Funny. You’re hoping the down times beat them into submission. I still believe that leadership culture needs to change. I guess as a strategist I get to see a lot of different types of business culture and the passive aggressive, Alpha male is still on top in a lot of companies. Uncool.

  6. Great read as per what you would expect from Mr. Pollard

    “Smarts over job titles”
    BOOM! Something I was taught in the Hospitality industry when I was studying. They call it “seamless service”, being able to carry the bags, give the customer a drink, and clean the room.

    I real life I have taken on responsibilities way out side me traditional role and training, and have been called by recruitment people a “dream candidate”. The more interested you are in the business (at all levels), and the more access you have to that information the better worker you become.

    Point 9: We have areas within our business (a global leader and household name if not religion!), that has had 100% turn over in the past 2 years because of lack of leadership. Why people want to sit back and let things pass by them is frightening to me.

    Point 10: People I know are looking for new opportunities. Personally I am happy with where I am and have worked hard to the Calais. However the past few months (as you put it) has allowed people to recalibrate and take stock in what they really want vs. need.

    Note: I do not work in digital or marketing, however change “digital” to “construction, sales, engineering” and the observations/predictions are similar.

  7. Nice.

    One of the best definitions of good branded content I’ve seen was Axe’s Gamekillers (by The Glue Society).

  8. great read.. I welcome all these changes.. also just discovered Madcon from that adidas clip.. win win

  9. @Cee Tx for your thoughts and sorry to hear about the job situation. One thing is for sure – money will come out of less measurable channels and move into more measurables channels. Digital spend is still predicted to grow (not by as much) whereas other channels will either not grow by much or recede (Ben will have stats on here somewhere). Stay hungry, hustle, network and karma will throw you a line.

    @arthur Isn’t Beckham in that video too? Not just hip hop. And the hip hop people who are are pretty well know in the States – have TV shows etc. Hear you though.

    @Kath Happiness – will be interesting to see b/c times are so going to really hurt a lot of people. Love the emergence of microfinance.

    @Robbo Yes, it may be easy to complain about leadership culture when you’re not in that role but I’m excited to see a new generation of leaders. I also know good, smart, curious people looking for opportunities now – bad times don’t stop those sorts of people.

    @Pete Yeh that was good content. Entertained – even if it was trying to sell. Had chapters, multiple layers.

    @Swarmy Good to see you on here! Glad you got something out of it 😉

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  11. Hi, I came across this blog via Twitter.

    1. I believe that a substantial numbers of Gen X will still hold leadership roles but they will digitise rather than retire. Went to a Thoughtworks presentation and saw two newly appointed (less than 2 years) people holding GM and Director roles in APN Online (biggest publisher in Australia) and Newscorp’s News Digital.

    6. For some reason, I was thinking that there would be more of a cleanout with middle management roles, rather than the C-level roles.

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