Why Agencies should act more like Tech Start Ups is a conversation that was started about 6 months ago and is an important way of looking at the changing advertising environment. The key point being that ‘advertising’ (as we know it) should be adapted from focusing on that ‘One Big Creative Idea’ to testing and trying out more nimble and flexible ideas and integrating them into existing (and future) technological distributions channels. Bottom line: Each ‘Creative Idea’ should possess a Raison d’être for each channel. And if it doesn’t, why do it?
While the above proposes a radical shift from the traditional thinking about advertising, some of the most seasoned professionals are slowly adopting these practices into their own approaches to work. While explaining the testing and pushing content out in mass, Steve Rubel, EVP/Global Strategy and Insights for Edelman notes, “I like to say that we rain on people every day, and we hope that eventually we drop enough rain to cause a behavior change and somebody says, ‘I gotta buy an umbrella.’ It used to just take a drizzle; it now takes a monsoon.” Jon Steinberg, president of Buzz Feed proposes developing “…a more nimble, flexible approach to advertising….GE might release 30, 40, or 50 videos…and should expect that only a few of them will really catch on. Brands shouldn’t stress out about the ones that don’t take off —they just need to feel comfortable with the idea that anything they release might get shared widely.”
While both of these approaches are definitely steps in the right direction; there is one inherent flaw with both: Even if you tell an amazing story, develop it in diverse manners and distribute in a zillion different channels, chances are very high that your message will still get lost in the shuffle. So how do you solve that conundrum?
There isn’t one definitive answer, but an excellent path to follow has been trail-blazed by Indie Shop and AdWeek’s 2011 Agency of the Year: AKQA. Nike, Audi and Google are all clients and have had bon-a-fide successes; however, it is under the hood where businesses and agencies need to look to see how AKQA has persevered. Their key is to insist on marrying technology and creativity in order to solve business challenges that industries (they work with) haven’t even sorted out yet.
Case in point: How do you showcase Audi’s Thermal Imaging Night Vision Assistant? Like This:
Originally only meant only for the web, Trick? or Treat? was so appropriate from both a timing and solution standpoint, it was expanded to run on national TV during the Halloween season. This example, like other work from AKQA, does not happen in a vacuum. “Torrence Boone, managing director of agency business development at Google, says that AKQA is ‘one of the most sophisticated of the agencies in terms of how to leverage digital platforms. . . for their clients.’ It takes a decent amount of thought and collaboration to come up with this unique approach to solving challenges such as these. AKQA has coined their approach: the Interface Design Practice.In this practice, a team of both creatives and technologists (specific to each platform) study a client’s audience to understand their behavioral tendencies and then ideate around each specific platform for their intended audiences. Once they have a few ideas they begin to flesh it out in tandem with the client and the intended audience in real time (or as close to as possible). By working in tandem with their partners, no longer can a client deflect responsibility of a failure to the agency or viceversa. Both entities work together to garner the best possible solution. And each team member – on both sides of the fence – have specific roles to which they are held accountable.Many agencies and business owners aren’t quite ready for this type of collaboration yet, but the forward thinking ones are actively moving in this direction together.