JWT CEO Bob Jeffrey Says the Consumer Is Still in Control

The revolution isn't about tech—it's about people expecting more from brands

With 15 years at the agency, Jeffrey now oversees more than 800 offices and 10,000 employees in more than 90 countries, working with such top brands as Ford, Nokia, HSBC and Nestlé. Early in his career, he was an account executive at DDB and Chiat/Day. In 1987, he co-founded his own shop, Goldsmith/Jeffrey, which was acquired by Lowe & Partners in 1996. Jeffrey was evp, managing director at Lowe before joining JWT as president of the New York office.

Looking back over three decades of what technology has changed in our world is mind-blowing. In just the past 15 years, that change has been seismic. As advertisers, we are in the business of chasing new and innovative ideas and channels to sell them through. But if anything has rocked our world more during this digital revolution, it is the transformation of the consumer from a passive spectator to an engaged activist.

Thirty-five years ago, there were three major TV networks, HBO was less than a decade old, and the newspaper was still the source for news, classifieds and more.

Thirty-five years ago, music played through boom boxes the size of cars and variety was limited to Top 40 singles selected by record labels dictating both production and consumption.

Thirty-five years ago, producing a truly memorable visual creative campaign would often require thousands of dollars’ worth of photographic equipment, lighting, dark room time and laborious retouching.

But the digital revolution on the horizon brought with it email, Facebook, Craigslist, eBay, Netflix, Amazon, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, Gmail and Google, and countless connected devices—laptops that fit in an envelope, smartphones with 40 megapixel cameras and hundreds of gigabytes of storage capacity, tablets with computing power stronger than those used to send men to the moon, TiVos, Rokus, DVRs and iPods.

Technology has enabled new levels of consumer participation that go beyond our wildest dreams. It may seem simple, that it’s all about a plethora of technological advancements. But it’s actually much more fundamental.

It is about the power of consumers to choose their own destiny, define their world, their media, their interactions with the world, and their ability to control communications. They are now the critic and the creative, marketer and advertiser, creator and consumer, all rolled into one. They share globally, instantly and freely with a network of millions.

Digital disruption has shaken up the game by introducing new platforms, tools and channels of engagement at a faster, and sometimes alarming, rate. But the benefit has also been mutual, making both marketers and consumers smarter. After all, the revolution isn’t about the technological advancements—it is about the power of consumers to choose and define the world, the media, and their own interactions and communications. They expect more from brands and, in turn, from us. That’s both the challenge and the opportunity as a new future emerges for our industry.

Technology will continue to change the customer landscape, but what it hasn’t changed is that we are still in the business of creating smart, big ideas.

Our focus then and now is on innovating and discovering ways to take advantage of new opportunities to engage consumers and embrace the disruption.

Viva advertising! Viva big ideas!

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