When former Grey chairman David Alberts used the WFA Global Marketer conference to say the agency model no longer meets clients’ creative needs, he hit on an incredibly salient point.
Traditional methods for briefing, creating and delivering marketing campaigns have simply not kept up with rapid changes in media, technology and consumer expectations. As the marketing landscape undergoes seismic change, brands need different solutions.
Despite brands’ hunger to build more nimble solutions that can deliver customer messages when and wherever they like, advertising’s 50+-year-old model has been woefully slow to evolve, as if in disbelief it couldn't survive the changes.
So the traditional silo model (where brand commissions agency and agency commissions delivery vendor) still dominates. And budgets are similarly stuck in a rut. Agencies and vendors love to bemoan the ever-decreasing budget. But, in reality, budgets have not decreased. They’ve fractured.
As "digital" and its multitude of platforms gain ever more pace, advertisers’ money has to go further. Brands, just like their consumers, expect more for less.
Why put "digital" in quotes? Because the term simply doesn’t do justice to today’s plethora of marketing opportunities and solutions: what started as "online" has mushroomed into social media, mobile, branded content and experiential.
Meanwhile, we are at the dawn of a new Golden Age: an age of incredible technology. This means marketers can now wow consumers with mind-blowing virtual reality experiences. And this eye-wateringly fast pace of marketing innovation is set to continue with wearable augmented reality like Magic Leap and HoloLens temptingly hovering on the horizon.
But the 50-year-old silo model crumbles when it comes to such nascent specialisms. Why? Because it’s simply not reasonable to expect brands and agencies to rigorously understand the nuances around every new platform and tech development.
So what’s the solution? How can we all — brands, agencies and vendors — tap into the amazing creative opportunities that these new spaces and technologies present?
The key lies in loosening the shackles on ye olde silo model. Or, to use David Alberts’ preferred term, we need to embrace the "democratization of creativity."
If we’re bold enough to disrupt the traditional model, brands would be able to benefit more directly from the specialist knowledge that vendors can offer; agencies could more openly move traditionally outsourced skills in-house; and "vendors" — who’ve been surprisingly smart in identifying and developing solutions that fulfil brands’ new needs — would become partners that have an open and undiluted line of communication with advertisers.
Agencies are often suspicious of erstwhile vendors delivering campaigns for brands without the benefit of their deep strategic insight. But if our new marketing landscape has shown anything, it’s that there’s a fundamental need for the carefully planned long-term campaign to co-exist alongside more nimble executions that exploit emerging platforms and technologies in a timely way.
Perhaps, though, there’s even more to the "democratization of creativity" than shaking up an outmoded business model. If we could remove our blinkers around the usual definition of creativity, we would be able to embrace the consumer’s creativity, too. Co-creating with consumers is not just a smart and engaging marketing strategy; it also helps remind us that the pool of creativity exists beyond our own hemisphere.
So if we can widen our traditional circle of creativity, the end result would be that all of us — marketer, agency, vendor and consumer — could gain from fresh input plus a freer rein to commission and create on a more agile basis.
We are living in a time when immense change is inevitable and constant. Those who embrace that change are more likely to find the path to success.
Jon Collins is president of integrated advertising (worldwide) with Framestore.