I love the passionate pursuit of anything. Goals, experiences, adventure, careers – it is a wonderful symptom of a purposeful life. I believe strongly in the alchemy that exists when passion meets purpose. True innovation and change only comes from passion and the creative pursuit of how to sustainably implement that passion in everyday life. That alchemy is a stronger currency than the pound.
But what happens when, in a creative industry largely ruled by passionate creatives, the passion and purpose of our combined actions are not congruent the needs or markets that make them commercially sustainable?
Think about it another way – we have seen the rise of channel specific agencies. Digital, social, shopper, experiential – the list goes on. A quick glance at the company lists on BizCommunity bear testimony to this. So many of these companies are built on passion and the belief that their specific craft is what business needs. More and more though, I feel that the one passion and purpose that remains very unique is the passion and ultimately the positioning of enabling clients and their brands achieve success with our real boss, the consumer. We are surrounded by massively intelligent and gifted business and creative people who have a passion for what they input into the work they deliver – they love advertising, design, digital, social… they are all passionate and massively qualified in what they do. We all believe, that our specific industry speciality is the thing the industry needs more of and that we should lead the brand or clients every move.
Passion – impossible to rationalise with!
The problem is that almost all of us are wrong. We are not exactly what the industry needs. We are committed to our passions and its perceived or created purpose, then the clients strategic or business needs. In that order. It is a bit like going to see a surgeon – if they can operate, they will – that’s what they do. I believe that what the industry is truly short of is people passionate about relevance and measurability in brand centric business development. Well, at least I hope so, because this is what I want to become. That’s my passion you see. I believe that the real impact should come from a passion directed at understanding the business needs behind the brand, and then to leverage all relevant channels and disciplines to achieve this objective.
I am trying to find a home for my passion and purpose as a brand and business strategist. I am fascinated with the challenge of finding a true purpose of all the various agency relationships and how to activate them, manage them, and reward them as it pertains to the long term and measured success of the brands that contract them and the consumers we all serve.
The brand custodians are the clients and they have a really tough job. How the hell do you appoint multiple agencies, brief them and manage them against a shared set of deliverables? Big brands and businesses seek to streamline themselves more and more. The result is that brand teams, as a ratio of staff to sales, is decreasing as it seems to be a trend to entrust more and more. The effect is that fewer people are expected to deliver bigger results. And this must be achieved in an agency landscape where there are simply more and more people and their agendas to manage. It is small wonder that brands are struggling with a shifting agency landscape.
The idea of a “lead agency” is fundamentally flawed, I think. It is a symptom of a client’s begging for help in navigating the foggy quagmire of multiple agency relationships. But because we are all so hell bent on offering what we have, not necessarily what is needed, we are leaving an impossible expectation and agency landscape for clients to manage effectively. A lead agency, assuming they are a traditional advertising agency, will offer a set of solutions they are experts in, first. It is a bit like having a buggered sports injury. If go to a physiotherapist, they will tell you that loads of physiotherapy should work before surgery. Go a surgeon, if they can, they’ll suggest surgery and then maybe physiotherapy. I think there is some of this in the agency landscape – appoint a channel specific agency as your lead and invariably they will naturally push their core competence first, not necessarily an impartial counsel on what is truly needed for a client to achieve their business objectives
The solution is not in the existing relationships with traditional agencies. The time is ripe for change. One of two things will happen, I believe – and both are such great opportunities! 1. The existing big dogs begin to invest in innovation of service and really interrogate their very business model and not just innovate in creative campaign. Essentially, they become BUSINESS partners of clients, both working for the consumer, irrespective of required tactic, channel or discipline. Or 2, a new breed of brand agency will emerge that’s sole purpose is to create beautiful brands and then to simply aid in the implementation and management of consistency and purpose within existing relationships with their agencies.
Personally, I hope both will happen – the best commercial innovation always comes from competitive markets where client needs have to be serviced with quality innovation that works.