Adapt or die. It’s a philosophy that’s fast becoming a mantra in a media industry where we cannot blindly buy attention but have to take an increasingly agile and creative approach to earn it. And rightly so.

You don’t need to work in advertising to be aware of the hugely expanded choice of channels, platforms and technologies at play. We have a media environment of extreme fragmentation; ad avoidance (albeit often overstated); ad blindness (often understated); time shifting; multitasking; active screen time and the increasing adoption of ad-free or ad-light media.

Those still engaging in traditional, one-way communications will simply not cut through. Learning to relinquish control over your messaging and spark and guide engaging conversations is a radical culture shift for any organization with a message to communicate. In short, digital media is entirely rewriting the way that organizations can engage and interact with the public. Only those organizations that are committed to reshaping and gearing up for the media future will thrive in the new communications landscape, but for those that do, the opportunities are tangible and rich.

The common vein running throughout these 12 characteristics of future media, as I see it, is “experience”, or, more specifically, the potential to offer a richer experience to our intended audiences. Data-driven media brings with it many accompanying issues on viewability, measurement, trust and disclosure – do consumers really understand how we are using their online data? When a search engine sees I am searching for wedding venues, I suddenly get ads full of tiaras, bouquets and cakes!

To some this is a Big Brother syndrome; to others it is simply smart targeting. To stay in the right side of helpful vs creepy, our industry’s governing bodies are quite rightly addressing this head-on – but, using data is a clear opportunity to create communications that are relevant, timely, helpful, useful and that build brand trust and warmth.

I return frequently to the words of my boss, WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, who prompted the industry to ask itself, “Are we Maths Men or Mad Men?” in relation to the increasing importance of Big Data and technology to our business.

For me, it’s not a question of either/or. Our increasingly data-rich media landscape, which allows programmatic buying (the buying, placement and optimization of our advertising by machines and algorithms, not people) has clear benefits in terms of the precision with which we can communicate with audiences. We can track, re-target and be extremely precise with the messages we are delivering and can correct them accordingly.

But while Google may have us believe that every decision can be tracked with an algorithm, there’s still a role for beautiful insights that allow us to create content that engages and inspires. Achieve the optimum balance of magic (the human touch), coupled with the precision capabilities of ad-served media, and your message will engage the right people in the right way.

Adapting to meet this pace of change will ultimately require buy-in at board level and may require a degree of organizational restructuring. Media today is much higher up the food chain and firmly on the c-suite agenda, but how many leaders are readily willing to adapt their business models to meet these new opportunities?

See also: Eight key media questions for leaders

WEF GAC Future Media Infographic

Author: Lindsay Pattison is CEO, Maxus UK, and CSO, Maxus Worldwide. She is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the Future of Media.

Image: A Facebook employee works in the design studio at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California March 2, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith