I have had a busy month, and was catching up on reading on a recent flight from Cincinnati to the West Coast, thanks to Google‘s Christmas present of Gogo Inflight Internet on Delta flights. Nice marketing effort, by the way, from the Chrome team, to build awareness and trial.
I read Danielle Sacks’ excellent piece in Fast Company, called The Future of Advertising. Her writing is interesting, relevant, and very helpful. And I basically agree with her conclusion …
“The holding companies will still exist, but around them could emerge a chaotic pattern of startups, independent talent, and connectors who thrive with minimum overhead. That kind of industry would be a fraction of the size of the current one. It would create opportunities for the most talented and hurt everyone else. It would be harder work, with fewer assistants and fewer million-dollar paydays. But this smaller business would be aloft on its new creative potential rather than sinking under the weight of its past.”
What I think Danielle understates throughout her piece is the real power a creative team brings to a client. Most of the client brand teams I know desperately need what an agency team does — to bring diversity of thinking to the most important thing companies do: build a lasting relationship with people.
Clients are generally left-brained people, and the good ones are obsessed with their business. They believe in what they do, and want others to understand that. But they usually (not always, there are exceptions) have a fundamental weakness — they approach problems and opportunities with their paradigm, their way of thinking. Great creative teams break that up, they bring a diversity of thinking and a more right-brained approach. That is why great relationships between clients and creative teams can lead to breakthroughs.
There would not be the Nike and Old Spice we know today without what Wieden+Kennedy brings, same with Southwest and GSD&M, Pampers and Saatchi & Saatchi, Dove and Ogilvy, Apple and TBWAChiatDay, Guinness and BBDO.
What these teams have brought, and continue to bring, is difficult to value. It is enormous. It is the feelings and devotion people have to these brands, which in most cases is the bulk of the value of these companies.
Danielle is right — the future of advertising will be different. It will be structured differently, it will be more diverse in team composition, it will have a multitude of compensation schemes. When I was at P&G, in the mid-2000s we began to “reboot” our expectations from agency teams for speed, creativity, capabilities, team dynamics, composition and unity. We began to design how P&G could win in this future of advertising. But what was sacred was the belief that external creative teams — properly inspired, trusted, and challenged — would add a tremendous value to the brands.
If this belief gets lost in the chaos many brands are swimming in, brands will suffer. It is up to clients to not let this happen. I like how Danielle says it in her conclusion: we need “to be aloft in new creative potential rather than sinking under the weight of the past.”
Great leaders on brands will appreciate this new creative potential. They will bring this creativity and diversity onto their teams so they can build the Nikes and Apples of the future. They will do it in many different ways, but they will do it.