Looking back on my notes from last night’s Firestarters I can see a faintly disquieting collection of home truths.
That, perhaps, as agencies we’re more comfortable talking about innovation than actually living it.
It’s a powerful idea for us, certainly. But not necessarily a state of being. Yet.
The insights and provocations came thick and fast.
That we are more comfortable with the how of innovation rather than the what.
That we find it easier to talk about it on our clients’ behalf than undertake it on our own.
That we find comfort in pretending to be so certain individually, because collectively we’re entirely uncertain about what the future holds.
That we allow ourselves to feel superior by gravitating towards what we think is significant, rather than what real people might find important.
That our own business model inhibits us from executing genuinely disruptive innovation within our own agencies.
That the only true way to disrupt our own business is by working from outside it.
And, most alarmingly, that disruption is inevitable; the only salient question is about who gets to it first and when.
Antony Mayfield shared my favourite quote of the evening, from Ted Sarandos, Netflix CEO (and MEC client, disclosure-fans).
Our strategy is to become HBO quicker than HBO become us.
That’s some strategy for the modern business.
It’s highly specific but incredibly ambitious. Convergence and disruption are assumed. It’s a very real deadline but it’s not something you can put in a calendar.
Substitute agencies for Netflix in that equation, though, and who’s the other party?
Antony reckoned it was McKinsey. He’s probably right.
But for last night demonstrated it could come from anywhere.
Luckily, for a planner, there was also bucketloads of great insight on what to do about it.
Pats broke down the characteristics of disruption, getting us thinking again about our clients’ business and the opportunity that exists in re-imagining an agency’s remit within it.
Glyn showed how agencies shouldn’t be built around skills or even disciplines, but by mindsets. Flexibility and perspective are the new art direction and copywriting.
Graeme contrasted the two natural laws that govern an agency’s world. Moore’s Law moves too fast for us to predict what’s coming – and yet it’s where we spend so much of our time. The glacial pace of Darwin’s Law gives us an opportunity to understand the stuff that doesn’t change – people and their motivation.
Phil reminded us to concentrate on ends not means – agencies should be the voice not just of the consumer but also of our clients’ commercial purpose. Big nods all round there.
Anjali articulated the role of innovation within an agency very nicely indeed – to harness technical developments and deliver stuff that’s useful with minimal wastage.
These were potent talks loaded with ‘ways in’ for people to grab hold of.
Huge thanks to Neil and all involved, as ever.