Unless you’re into Bonsai or history, you must have a proclivity to change and growth and an open mind to the new and different. If you are not growing, no matter how far above the tree line your perspective, the rest of the forest will continue to rise until you are the underbrush.
The ad agency’s role is changing faster than it is adapting. There are no benefits for being timid. Technology is fueling the changes in our culture in our personal lives and also reshaping the roles of business, marketing and advertising. One thing is certain - tomorrow will be different than today.
Responding quickly with any large organization is difficult - ad agencies are no exception. Someone needs to be in the crow’s nest, and you had better trust their vision. Does anyone still see Apple as a computer company? How about the print book market? Amazon is forging into the digital age and is not hard cover bound as are B&N and Borders. Where the ad agency needs to go there are no borders. It is time to rethink advertising’s role and to jettison concepts that may be old baggage to the client.
Someone or something will disquiet the market – it should be you. Change does not occur on the main deck; it occurs most often from the outside. The ad agency is at the crossroads of creativity and application. This is where innovation is born. When your clients begin to change faster than their agency the storm may become a hurricane.
Visionaries think differently. The crossroads to innovation do not come with a road map. Today’s billionaires did not evolve from the traditional business model, and we cannot continue to promote them in the same ways. The agency doesn’t need to reengineer itself, it needs to reinvent itself. Change isn’t any easier for the Ad agency than it is in any business. Look around for solutions that you can add to the mix. The American Advertising Federation reminds us that “Great ideas can come from anywhere.” Start looking.
Innovators do not think inside the box, and they do not think inside the culture. They are fixed on the horizon or on their inner vision. If the leading ad agencies of today continue to define themselves in traditional ways, they will be constrained by their own conventions. I’m not going to tell you which rocks to turn over but to start turning.
Rethinking the role of advertising and promotion will be difficult from within. There are too many dots to connect and too many fiefdoms to protect. One person, however, one lone ranger, one free thinking visionary can start a revolution. When you look for such a person, do not pick from the usual suspect list. Pick someone who does not mind working and thinking in ways that others do not. Stir the pot and get rid of the rule book. Do not take your eyes off of the horizon – that is where the sun rises and sets. When you are ready for that, I will give you my thought on how to identify the visionary.
The advertising agency is only as good as its next campaign. All the awards and accolades won’t keep you in the limelight. Agencies produce ideas, image and entertainment. They capitalize on finding and creating needs and desires. With the tablet and smart phone evolution, the ad agency’s role is in question. Business to business and person to person communication is driven by these hand held devices. You can access the Internet, phone, text, communicate with, research, Google, game, read anything available in print, talk to and instruct your phone, get directions, locate your next destination and remain connected to your business and your personal life from the palm of your hand. On a smart phone or a note pad there is little space for advertising. Ads there are probably unwelcome.
The advertising game is changing and it needs fresh media and appeals. Call me a rebel – I welcome the badge. We have entered the conceptual age and it is redefining how technology and creative advertising evolve. I’ve suggested that some radical changes are in order for the agency. Think about it, there is far more to lose than staying the course. Next time we will delve into what to look for in manning the crow’s nest.