Two predictions to make: easy to ask, very hard to answer
So much of our readiness for what lies in the future depends on how prepared we are right nowThe future will be here sooner than we thinkExperiment in places you’re not supposed to play inHelp people feel responsible for the bigger ambitionBe less precious about who owns what
At MEC we audited the number of things that are currently making us money. We counted 64 separate lines of revenue.
The surprising this is that 42 of those lines didn’t exist three years ago.What constitutes an agency’s work is changing all the time – and increasingly difficult to predictThat’s the thing with evolution, it’s not easy to notice it happening
And it’s even more confusing when we’re all orbiting the same spacesIf we’re not careful, convergence between ostensibly different disciplines risks us cancelling each other out. All of us, whether digital, advertising, PR or media deal with these core subjects to varying degrees of emphasis. The time clients are confused about who to go to is the time we start being more a hindrance than a help.
Simon Waldman calls this The Incumbent’s Dilemma - the effect technology and innovation can have on a business. In his fantastic book, Creative Disruption, he talks about the ‘physics’ of business’ changing all the time – our fundamental assumptions about the way the business world works. And in a week when even the physics of physics are being challenged, it’s even more obvious that nothing can be taken for granted by those of us in this room today.With so many trajectories, the question becomes, how to prioritise? How to even recognise the importance of what’s happening. When should you change, and to what?
So, how to ensure you remain valuableTransform the coreLook for adjacenciesInnovate at the edges
40% of all ads will be adserved by 2015This brings threats of automation and the need for new tech solutionsRequires new skillsets of technology, targeting, inventory management – media agencies don’t have a divine right to these thingsMaybe we’ll see the media agency world segment yet further – platforms and trading on one side, strategy and consultancy on the other?Some relatively new functions are ripe for being taken back in house by clientPOE is really a resource question not a budget question – clients are already hip to this and the need to be in touch with live data means buzz monitoring, community management need not always be outsourced. In an agile world, what role for agencies if this becomes more commonplace?Equally, we are being asked by clients new questions that WE’VE never been asked before. Questions that clients themselves haven’t had to ask either. They’re not necessarily required to ask them of us.
Extend and defend our core activities (mature businesses that generate the profit)Build emerging capability and new revenue streamsFrom a media agency perspective this has meant things like SEO, social media practice, sponsorship and partnerships, content divisions
Create viable options for the future (seeds of tomorrow)What might these be?Take aspects of our cultures and business that currently operate at the edges, and see whether through innovation they can be made into new areas of revenueEg, talent spotting, career development, marketing expertise, ‘freemium’ models of data consultancy or technology advocacy (eg product research and development through additive manufacturing)
In one way it doesn’t matter what your strategy is, without the culture to help execute the vision it will remain just an ambition on a pageSOCIAL CAPITAL / RELATIONSHIPS AS THE NEW AGENCY COMMODITYPeople will continue to be the real currency of the future agency
And how do we cultivate a culture for the future?Trust, confidence, empowerment
Ruskin’s belief in the sanctity of self-expression is tremendously powerful, and something we can learn from when nurturing a culture of trust. We talk a lot about freedom to fail at the moment, and it’s usually concentrated on businesses and start-ups. But it matters at an individual level too. We learn from our mistakes, and we’re good at what we enjoy.
It was this philosophy that led Ruskin to praise the original Gothic style. The basic structure was from an architect, of course, but the additions, the enhancements, the bits that make each building special and individual, are all from the hands of individual labourers, allowed free reign to do what they wanted, in pursuit of making the greater good even betterI think this equipping people for this approach is the best way to ensure a strategy can be executed.
In fact, I’ve been fascinated recently by the parallel between agencies and architecture more generally.Both are built with a purpose in mind. They house a load of people and resources.What we build reflects our core values. We build ideas that people participate in, and we require the ‘wisdom and inventiveness’ of everyone involved’We even had our own baroque period in the 1980s
Haussmann and his re-design of Paris in the aftermath of the 1848 revolutionsStreets wide enough that they couldn’t be barricaded.No more hiding in the back streets. Everything on display. Everyone playing a visible part.
24/7 operationsOpen platform communicationsWiki working Diffusion of skillsets beyond departmental boundaries (less homogenous make-up, experience diffused throughout agency)
Finding new ways of operating as a businessRecruiting / building a culture (Intrapreneurialism) – short-term contracts, revenue share for new products, Gen Y expectationRework: also Fire The Workaholics, Emulate Drug Dealers, 7 minute meetings - agility, urgency and collaboration internallyRevenue: Eloqua case study – a content marketing agency marketing itself with a content strategy. Driving revenue and new business by unlocking content from within the agency. I think we too rarely turn our own powers of analysis and objectivity on ourselves
Communications platfomore people in our clients organisations about more thingsMore comfortable, personal, scalable touchpointsChange of form and content of communicationNew intervals of contact – reduced time to deliver
Or, to put it another wayMarrying the problem Are we answering the right problem? Or asking the right question?At MEC we have found ourselves involved in the writing of IT requisition forms for Lloyds Banking Group, to ensure they have the right software to help them be active and accurate in responding to customers through social channels. All part of ensuring they are fit for purpose in a social world
Pixar More ideas, better ideas – it takes thousands of brilliant, small ideas to get a Pixar film out the door. The notion of the lone creative genius, who might have the first idea but inhibits those from everyone else, is increasingly redundantMore people contributingSolving new problems with lots and lots and lots of ideas
Yes, I admit it!In Folk music, the original rendition isn’t glorified as the authentic prototype – it’s merely the first draft. In fact, Cecil Sharp believed that folk songs exist in a state of perpetual renewal, and that it isn’t the ‘original’, but the transformations themselves that constitute the substance of the song.The greater the number of renditions, and the more it’s interpreted by others, the more real and definitive the song becomes.For unbound creativity to truly happen within agencies, on behalf of clients, we need to acknowledge that creativity needs to happen between agenciesTo summariseExperiment in places you’re not supposed to play inHelp people feel responsible for the bigger ambitionBe less precious about who owns what
Google firestarters #3 future OS of agencies
Google Firestarters: the new OS for agencies<br />@firstname.lastname@example.org<br />
2) <br />How we will <br />do it<br />1) <br />What <br />we will<br />do<br />
The way we empower them<br />Their way we encourage them to collaborate<br />The way we equip them to be catalysts for change<br />
“<br />You can teach a man to draw a straight line.<br />But if you ask him to consider if he cannot find better in his own head, he stops; he thinks, and ten to one he makes a mistake in the first touch he gives to his work as a thinking being.<br />But you have made a man of him for all that. <br />He was only a machine before, an animated tool<br />”<br />
Architecture] is an unfolding drama in which we all play our part.<br />We construct our environment in a way that is better informed by the wisdom and inventiveness of its public.<br />SunandPrassad, former RIBA president<br />
Website as more than just a shop front<br />Real time updates & sharing<br />The openagency<br />Curation of knowledge?<br />Apps on the go?<br />Data updates & co-created responses<br />Virtual client teams<br />Thought leadership encouraged<br />
The media agency of the future will look like everything. <br />The successful agency will be a leader in all of the things a marketer needs. <br />Steve Farella<br />CEO, TargetCast<br />