Almost as ubiquitous today as stories about the Yahoo purchase of Tumblr, are reactions to a new study predicting that social and digital marketing agencies or service providers will disappear within ten years. Reactions seem to run the spectrum from indifference to shock and from cheering to jeering the findings. Our team has been monitoring the reactions and discovered complete agreement that the prediction will likely prove to be accurate.

The study, conducted by European business school Mediaschool Group, surveyed 2,000 marketing students throughout Europe in March and April 2013. According to this study, 70 percent of respondents indicated a belief that in ten years marketing will focus on content marketing and “PR thinking” – a focus on building brand recognition and image, and inspiring customer trust. Further, 80 percent anticipate the demise of stand-alone social media services firms and digital marketing agencies.

Other notable findings of the study include:

  • 70 percent believe TV advertising will remain relevant in 10 years
  • 70 percent believe advertising will shift focus to entertaining rather than selling in 10 years
  • 70 percent indicate that “true digital natives” are found only in the generation 10 years behind them
  • 77 percent think Facebook is the most important social media platform for communicating with millennials
  • 60 percent view Twitter as an advertising platform
  • a large segment of students who believe that silos and channels do not exist in marketing

Our team was unanimous in its agreement that stand-alone social media and digital marketing agencies probably will not exist in ten years. In fact, we believe so strongly in integrated and multi-channel marketing that we tend to think stand-alone social media shops are inadequate today. In fact, we named our company “. . . social media & more” for two reasons: (1) because we offer marketing services beyond social media, and (2) we believe social media marketing efforts are inadequate in isolation.

Regarding other findings of the study, we agree that TV advertising will continue to be relevant and effective. People may choose to watch TV on other devices, but they will continue to watch and to see advertising. To those watching advertising effectiveness on various platforms or channels, it is clear that Twitter is rapidly becoming an advertising platform. The question is whether it will become an effective and cost-efficient advertising platform. Facebook appears to be the primary channel for those who wish to communicate with millennials. However, as today’s teens migrate from Facebook to Twitter (also widely reported today), this may change. In fact, this migration might be a game changer for Twitter advertising.

We also agree that advertising will continue to be wrapped in entertaining packages. The “marketing as entertainment trend” has been with us for decades. It did not begin with the rise of social media or the birth of digital marketing, and we do not think it likely to end in the near future. One need only think back (if one is of sufficient years) to recall the radio programming produced and aired as a vehicle for product or brand marketing. The daytime serial dramas, first on radio and then on television, came to be called soap operas because they were the entertainment platforms used by soap companies to market their products. One need only review Super Bowl ads aired over the last 15 or 20 years to chart the increase in entertainment value of the spots.

In time, there will likely be some natural filtering and selection among social networks. This is a pattern we see with most new concepts – search engines, news aggregators, web portals. All of this – we believe – will eventually lead to other new ways of communicating and sharing information. However, it is important to remember that we do not define marketing by the platform or the format. Marketing is a fluid set of activities and tactics by which companies and brands communicate with their customers and prospective customers and attempt to remain top of mind when the customer is ready to purchase.

Will stand-alone social media services firms and digital marketing agencies exist ten years from now? We think not. We believe marketers and companies of all sizes will learn that marketing is rarely successful when it relies on a single channel or platform. When this is recognized, the social media silos will disappear and agencies will learn to use multi-channel, multi-media, multi-platform, multi-format marketing to connect in meaningful ways with their target audiences.