The Internet is in flux. Platforms are transforming. Emerging tech is shifting digital and how we use it. As the Internet continues to change our work and flow, brands and agencies must reimagine their strategies to navigate this fluid landscape. So, what’s on the radar for 2024?
To find out, The Webby Awards and WP Engine hosted Crafted Future: 2024, On The Radar. The panel explored the key factors that will influence the operating strategies of brands and agencies at this turning point in the digital industry—from new business cultures, new tech and techniques, new industry trends and more.
ICYMI – Here are a couple insights on how agencies and brands can adapt their work and operations to meet this moment on the Internet.
1. Optimize and Automate to Fast-Track Creativity
The explosive growth of artificial intelligence (AI) lives in the gray area; it’s new, exciting and embraces experimentation. Digital creatives across the industry are tentatively exploring its uses, from optimizing busy work to speeding up the brainstorming process.
Learning key ways to leverage it in your context is the first step toward utilizing AI in your work to stay ahead of the curve in 2024.
“It’s enabling us to do things we couldn’t do before. It’s allowing us to increase our efficiency, allowing us to be more innovative,” said Kushner. “We’re thinking about how we can do more for our partners using these technologies—whether it’s personalization of assets or virtual assistants or how to automate things for the better.”
Using it as a collaborator to complement creativity should be a key way to get started with integrating AI. There’s wide room for it to help refine content, campaigns, scripts, project plans—whatever it may be, using it as a co-creator can assist in developing original and fresh work more efficiently.
“On the question of ‘Is it AI versus me or is it AI and me?’ the jury is still out, but mostly it’s moving toward ‘and’,” said Puri. “Which is great because it is incremental and it’s going to help across the base make us all very comfortable.”
AI tools can lighten the load on teams, especially at a time when brands and agencies are tasked with producing more with less resources. Implementing AI strategically can eliminate key resource needs and give teams the time to build efficient growth for their companies.
As Puri explained, “If you have to do anything twice, automate it.”
Think operationally when finding pockets where AI can live within your system. Use it to take care of easy tasks and busy work to free up space for creative thinkers to do more.
2. Invest in Talent and Foster Your Internal Culture
In the name of efficiency, teams across the Internet are implementing a systems-thinking approach to understanding the needs of their team. It’s important to invest in and nourish your team, from providing the resources they need to create great work, to the resources they need as employees and as people. Create ergonomic supports within the internal environment to make it conducive to success.
“How are we ensuring that we are nurturing the right space for creativity and innovation? How are we bolstering and supporting the incredible team members that we have,” said Taylor-Hayford. “And how are we investing in continuous improvement of our understanding of the business that we’re in?”
Fostering your internal environment means fortifying the foundation of your brand or agency. This also makes your work and business more agile. By creating internal supports, your company can effectively create quality content: from systems that allow for more accountability and clarity to processes that build trust and connection among your team.
“It is really about making investments in your Center of Excellence,” said Puri. “You have to be good at something and better than anybody else out there. It’s a strategic advantage. That is about investment in talent—hiring, nurturing and retaining.”
As our digital world grows more complex—with more audience segments, channels and formats—so does the work. There are two techniques when creating work to reflect this nuance: hiring more generalists or specialists. Either route will allow you to make focused and effective work; the first by allowing you to think outside your perspective, the second by allowing you to zero in on the different layers of your work.
“We’re in an era of more hyperspecialization than we have been in the past. We need that smart talent and thinking to bring the best possible results to your clients,” said Kushner. “We’re investing in that and technology—always thinking about what capabilities we can add to our team.”
However, Taylor-Hayford opts for the first solution. He expanded on how the generalist approach has elevated KIN’s work to be deeply connected to culture and reflective of the communities they’re creating for. By welcoming folks with experience outside of advertising or communications, they’re able to produce multi-dimensional work that holds important cultural nuance and references.
“It’s really important for us in the work that we do to ensure that we’re connecting to something that’s just a little bigger than the paid media ecosystem that we live in,” said Taylor Hayford. “For us, it’s really important to get to that kind of work and we push hard to ensure we have teams that fully represent and reflect the community we’re trying to reach.”
3. Go Beyond Good Branding
Beyond investing in your team, it’s important to elevate your brand beyond your product. Today, a brand is the medium connecting businesses and customers. It’s the narrative that draws audiences back and builds a community among consumers.
“It is a promise to a value that lives in the minds of your customers. That’s what we’re investing in,” said Puri. “We have invested in content and bringing in that personalized content at the right moment to the customers so that they can drive that value off the promise that we made to our customers.”
It’s important to create campaigns and creative that strategically build on the brand. It has to fuel the connection between you and your customers, so think outside the box in your branding. Create dynamic work that can engage audiences across platforms and channels.
“It’s easy for companies to focus more on lower funnel performance and forget about fuelling their upper funnel. But your lower funnel is only as good as your upper funnel,” said Kushner. ”So, we always push the importance of creating these campaigns and creative that fuels the brand.”
Understand your company’s business, and find creative and original ways to express your brand values. There needs to be a value exchange between your brand and customers. It has to be a two-way street and reflect your audiences’ values meaningfully. Otherwise, it’s not going to resonate.
“In a lot of what we develop for our clients, we think a lot about ‘How is this connecting to community? How is this building community? How does this endure?’” explored Taylor-Hayford. “It can’t just be a firework or a flash in the pan.”
This rings especially true when considering how brands are alive. They are living and existing manifestations of your company’s identity. They are not static, so the work shouldn’t be. Evaluation is key to ensuring your brand is fluid and can be molded into new forms.
“Ultimately, rolling out, getting feedback and iterating. Brands are alive, they need to be constantly iterated again,” said Kushner. “Great creative campaigns, building trust, building community.”