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Life, culture, the world around us, it’s all moving incredibly fast. Faster than most can ever remember.
In the long term, the explosion of the internet and its effect on modern culture sees the landscape move exceptionally quickly. Take memes for example, a cornerstone of modern communication. In less than a decade, the average meme lifespan has reduced from multiple years to less than a month - one small example of a wider trend. Looking shorter term to more immediate changes, COVID-19 and the current civil rights movement are creating monumental societal shifts that will define a generation.
Looking specifically on the world of advertising, all of this presents significant difficulties for Marketeers, who must pick strategies to adopt, territories to enter, and routes to apply budget. How can you create a 6-month plan for a world that might be completely different in that timeframe? The conventional method is to plan your media buy for the year, identify campaign launches etc, then ‘colour it in’ with some creativity and maybe tweak the media plan a little. 2021 is not the year to keep doing the same thing, and now we have an opportunity to creatively and strategically address real cultural shifts and changes in consumer expectations and behaviour.
Whilst historically, many had turned to the agency superpowers of the world to answer the big issues in front of them, there’s now a much more powerful ace up the proverbial sleeve. The collaboration of smaller, independent agencies.
My creative technology agency, Rehab, recently joined By The Network, a new global agency network led by former Grey Global Creative Chairman, Per Pedersen. Including 16 founding agency partners across more than 20 countries, the idea is that we collaborate fluidly, rapidly, and openly - sharing briefs when relevant. The difference between this and old models is that there’s no no central force in play, just a rigorously democratic community and a profit share system. Together, we cover just about every creative output, including brand experience, entertainment, music, technology, sustainability solutions and more.
There are some significant benefits to operating in this way that allows us to address the way modern issues present themselves to CMO’s. One of the most obvious ways to me is through the unique blend of specialities that a band of ‘niche’ agencies working together offers. Whilst being a niche (or, as i like to say, specialist) agency has, in the past, carried some negative connotations, the collaboration of many is the perfect means of creating for modern mediums that demand crossover. For example, you could be working on an exciting immersive experience for a client, but what about the music? How might it support (or hinder) the brand's sustainability objectives?How might AI or Machine Learning push the experience into even more interesting directions? Modern audiences demand this level of crossover and working with multiple specialists is simply the best way to serve this demand.
Similarly, the array of nationalities involved also offers another unique benefit that many won’t have considered. With the rising demand for creative campaigns that address global markets and touch local audiences, it’s absolutely imperative that the team involved understands different worldviews and is aware of the cultural intricacies and nuance that make this type of work so interesting. Different iconography can take different meanings across borders, for example, as well as the more obvious differences in colloquialisms and cultural norms.
My friend Jon Hamm, Co-Founder of agency Free Turn, is the other UK representative in By The Network, and I believe he recently summed up these points really succinctly: “Smart modern marketeers & CMOs understand that the best, most effective work creates and contributes to culture rather than hijacks it. Independent agencies with differing viewpoints (whether that is specialisms or geographies) collaborating together means that the work is ultimately more challenging, pushes the briefs harder and forces a way of working that can light fires.”
Finally, it’s hard not to consider the harsh pandemic environment and the need to collaborate to deal with it. Times are incredibly tough for independent agencies, with most facing extremely difficult decisions every single week. There’s no way around it. Together we’re stronger and apart we’re not. We must share feelings, advice, and briefs to get through this.
Overall, it’s been extremely positive and reassuring to see agencies come together and collaborate during the current crisis. It doesn’t just offer an optimistic view of the future that we all need, it might just have the answers to the big issues facing CMO’s today.