Customer curation: What brands and ad agencies do about it

“Radio equals listening to the playlists of unknown radio people. Newspapers equal reading the playlists of unknown newspaper people. I want to read and hear lists curated by people I know.”

I read these words a couple of weeks ago. They touched on an important trend that will change the advertising industry. Traditional silos (television, print and radio) have already started to dissolve as technology has rendered them meaningless. Consumers have already been re-cast as content creators, publishers and distributors. And now, those same consumers are more and more responsible for the curation of what gets shared and why.

This is the next level of sophistication in the power shift between brands and consumers. When consumers started using social media tools they gained, perhaps for the first time, equal weight in their conversation with brands. This is now reaching a new level as consumers become curators of what holds their attention.

The challenge for advertisers is how to create content that consumers want to engage with and share, whether its an ad, viral video or a 140 character message to a friend. What’s more, this consumer driven process is organic and fluid making it even more difficult for brands to exercise any control.

Inevitably brands will start to question whether they should look to advertising agencies as the most effective means to reach consumers in a meaningful, measurable and ultimately profitable way. This, in part, explains the rise of crowdsourcing by brands are that trying to minimize risk by testing their strategies and ideas on consumers before taking them to market (much like the Threadless t-shirt business model). As such the partnership between brands and ad agencies now has to be expanded to include consumers.

The hard-won expertise of advertising agencies is still critical. But they must rethink how this expertise applies within this new dynamic. They must accept that part of the responsibility for content curatorship has shifted to consumers and work with them rather than against them.

If agencies do this, they will remain relevant and necessary partners within this new collaborative dynamic. If they deny or resist this shift, they do so at their peril. It would be far wiser to see consumers as creative partners rather than a threat.

Do you agree that consumers are now curators and how do you think this affects advertising?

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