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Canadian SME Feature: Digital advertising debut–three ways rookie agencies can build credibility in 2024

Canadian SME Feature: Digital advertising debut–three ways rookie agencies can build credibility in 2024
Josh Rosen

In case you haven’t noticed, digital advertising is exploding. There’s no question it’s going to surpass what brands spend on linear TV. According to Statista, the 2024 digital ad market is expected to be worth US$740 billion dollars worldwide. US$16 billion of that will be spent in Canada.

For rookie agencies, getting a piece of the digital advertising pie will be a mountain they need to scale. There are over 8,000 ad agencies in this country, a number that is growing. So how can new agencies stand out in a saturated market?

In 2024, building that credibility will hinge largely on how the agencies handle technology. After all, artificial intelligence and generative AI tools like ChatGPT are dominating the media. Enterprises can’t (and shouldn’t) ignore what everyone’s talking about. Along with tech, a push towards a back-to-basics approach, coupled with raising ethical standards in social media advertising, will cement credibility for new agencies.

Let’s explore how.

The AI paradox: how to advertise it without AI-washing it

There was no bigger story last year than AI. It permeated virtually every industry, including the marketing world. Brands started to tout their AI capabilities. But instead of brands identifying a point of differentiation, it became AI-washing.

I recall seeing an advertisement for an AI-powered golf club. It talked about AI-powered technology in its club head, and it ended there. I thought, what does that even mean? If I had to deduce on my own, I would say that the club uses AI to analyze a million different golf swings. From there, the AI has determined the sweet spot for amateur golfers to help them hit the ball further, and with greater precision. But the ad didn’t identify that point of differentiation. It simply stopped at ‘AI-powered.’

Rookie agencies incorporating AI into their stories need to build credibility through differentiation. Make sure it’s not just a marketing gimmick. Showcase how AI is utilized to provide tangible benefits. Authenticity in your AI narrative, grounded in solving real problems, will set you apart and build trust in your capabilities. Otherwise, you risk being lumped into the AI-washing category, followed by a hit to your reputation.

Back-to-basics: focus on brand-building for credibility, not cost and clicks

In the good old days of advertising, brands were built through impressive creative and strong strategy. They understood their customers, and connected meaningfully with them.

Advertising lost its way when digital started to take hold. These days, companies put more focus on cost and clicks rather than actual brand-building through connections.

New players in the industry can distinguish themselves by putting brand-building first. Watching the latest Scotiabank ad, I remember thinking that it didn’t look like an ad for a bank at all. It showed people comparing themselves to others, but really, ‘you’re richer than you think.’ The most important aspect of it? The ad wasn’t speaking at an audience, it was speaking for an audience. That’s something we’re missing in our messaging today, because we are so hell-bent on spreading it widely instead.

The industry might fear that incoming agencies will be more of the same. To stem the skepticism, it’s crucial to emphasize your brand-building techniques, and avoid being simply ‘cheaper’ and ‘faster’ than the other guys. Get your case studies in order, seek testimonials from valued clients, gather data on referrals, actively participate in industry events, and invest in your teams. Your credibility will follow.

Re-evaluate your ethical standards in the age of social media marketing

There are 4.8 billion social media users worldwide. Social media platforms have significantly amplified the reach of advertisers. These are platforms agencies want to reach, right?

Your choices as advertisers not only reflect your company’s values, but also have far-reaching impacts on your audience. That’s right, I’m pointing the finger at TikTok.
TikTok reaches broad audiences, especially the younger (and highly valued) demographic. But it’s been scrutinized for its addictive ‘endless scroll’, and has a reputation for flouting regulatory and privacy measures. As members of the advertising community, we have a responsibility to consider the broader impact of our advertising platforms. Build your credibility by being more than just a product or service – make it a reflection of your values and commitment to societal well-being.

Conduct an ethical review and determine if the reach of certain social media platforms outweigh the potential negative impacts. Every agency will come to its own conclusion. Be ready to support your stance.

Yes, you can be new AND credible

The challenge for rookie agencies to carve a niche in a saturated market is undeniable. Credibility will be the cornerstone of success for these agencies. Building credibility in 2024 will require a balanced approach that combines knowledge of industry-specific technology with genuine, ethical storytelling. In 2024, brand building starts with your own.

Read the original Canadian SME article here.

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