by Tom Fels (@thomasfels) At a time when marketing requires and demands change, are the people and organisations within it willing to disrupt everything they know to champion the future?

Safety in the ‘known’

We are creatures of habit and relax into situations that feel safe and familiar, yet we exist in an industry that continually urges us to leap out of our comfort zones and creatively stretch the realms of possibility.

Given this quest for constant exploration, the reassuring familiarity of operational processes, timelines and output expectations provide some form of stability to the needy habitual mind. What we must question, however, is whether even these keep us from embracing the real shift that is required for marketing (inclusive of agencies) to thrive in an uncertain world?

More than one kind of transformation

Recently here on, Jarred Cinman wrote very articulately about the MAC Charter and the necessary impact that it is having on the future of diversity within agencies. In itself, this is a form of disruption for many organisations — challenging their mindset, their approach to the responsibility of more-equal representation in the workplace and, indeed, to the very notion of ownership and the transfer of wealth.

On a more output-based level, we see marketing organisations gearing themselves up for an accelerated digital future, once ‘far away’ and now knocking down the door. In doing so, they are set to reevaluate areas of investment, internal structures, the role of data and orienting with a customer-first mindset. These are tectonic shifts because of the pace with which they are impacting brands, opening up opportunities for consultants and insourcing while raising questions around agency aptitude in this new mix.

Finally, operationally, the idea of dedicated office space over remote working, commuting and flexi-time, permanent employment (or the lack thereof — particularly in the emerging, talented millennial set) and the shortening of the power distance in organisations should have ad-industry leaders completely reevaluating what the agency of the future looks like. If Uber doesn’t own cars, should agencies not also be looking to become platforms, rather than cumbersome hold-alls?

No choice at all

We already know for certain that the pinnacle moments of human achievement are not witnessed in times of languid comfort, that to actually go beyond what is known or believed possible requires us to shake off the shackles of doubt and familiarity.

All around and in front of us, we also know that there is no success to be found in repeating what has been done before, which is both exhilarating and daunting. Exhilarating because, yes, in testing our limits we’ll find both the best version of ourselves and our organisations, and daunting because the lessons we learn will be taught the hard way.

When confronted with the choice of whether or not to adapt and change, one will realise that it’s not a discretionary choice at all. It is a necessary commitment to both survival and success. As Yoda would say, “Do. Or do not… there is no try.”


Tom Fels 2016With a history of local and international experience in leading brand consulting, design, shopper marketing and integrated advertising roles, Tom Fels (@thomasfels) has gained a deeply relevant understanding of the marketing ecosystem. His skills are now put to work daily as chief executive of digital technology and performance-marketing business, Nurun ( He contributes the monthly “Ad Exec” column to MarkLives.

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