Old ways of doing biz are dead —can we adapt fast enough to survive?
by David Cohen (@gridworldwide) We’re living in a world of exponential change. As ad agencies, we may fight those changes and hope they don’t affect us — or embrace them and discover new ways of doing business.
It’s not always an easy choice. Industries, markets and consumers are changing on an almost-daily basis and, as a species, we often find that pretty difficult to accept. We tend to hold on to what we know. We defend the way we’ve always done things. Why fix what’s not broken, right?
History is littered with companies that held on too tightly — and for too long — to what they believed was true. Kodak and Nokia are two obvious examples but there are many, many more.
Adapt or die
Here’s our reality: Agencies are being disrupted by apps pumping out logos and copy, and artificial intelligence (AI) is making everything we used to do more accessible at a lower price. Ignoring this fact won’t make it go away. Look at it as a tsunami. Trying to paddle against it is pointless.
This is why we need to take a different approach. Given the pressure that agencies are under, the mix of skills and insights that make up teams has never been more relevant — or more essential.
An agency’s currency is the ideas that sit in its people’s heads. That’s the whole business. Instead of fighting what’s happening around us, choose to create an environment that nurtures those ideas, keeps everyone motivated and moving in the same direction together, and above all celebrates originality and ingenuity.
#1. Stay in beta
If you’re not comfortable with change and adapting to the way the world is and will be, you need to get comfortable — fast.
It’s not always easy to get your head around. A business that is always changing and in beta is not for everyone but this is no longer a ‘nice to have’. Businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve need to drastically increase their agility quotient. It won’t be easy but the first step is believing in it. Then it’s trial and error figuring out how to live it.
#2. Have access to the right tools
The reality is that clients want what they got last year at a better price. Ignoring this truth or trying to change it is pointless. Instead, we need to accept it and make it work. A lot of that involves understanding how the world works, what consumers want and need, and delivering real brand value to them. It’s about pulling strategy, creative and execution together to deliver meaningful results.
Read international news sites daily. Watch YouTube videos. Understand what is trending and why.
Most importantly, bring diverse people with different interests and backgrounds into the room and trust them to add value. Don’t ask them to leave their passions and hobbies at the door. They must bring them into the office. That’s how you understand what’s happening out in the world. It’s how you collectively stretch your imagination and what’s possible.
#3. Learn to cross-pollinate
The old way of doing business was sticking to your lane. I’m in favour of specialising and even niches, but there’s huge value in drawing different industries, verticals and skills together as well.
Keep your eyes open. Be constantly asking what’s happening around the world. What challenges and opportunities are different verticals and sectors facing? How do different businesses operate? What makes them tick? The secret is to always take a little bit away from every interaction you have that you may then infuse in the next thing you move on to.
Industries and business are shifting. Telcos are becoming banks and banks are becoming telcos. Learning from different sectors and businesses opens our eyes. Always be willing to learn something new. More importantly, be willing to action that knowledge and make changes.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.