One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is, undoubtedly, BIG DATA, or more specifically how to harness the unprecedented flow of information to make it work effectively for clients’ brands. The Blueprint believes that agencies’ mastery of data could be used as a driver of genuine change, helping to recalibrate the wider perception of the ad industry. By this we mean that agencies can seize first-mover advantage in the wider business culture by being at the vanguard of smart automation.
In the context of the comms business, this means freeing up time and capital to focus on generating tangible value via creativity. However, the skills and capabilities learned in the process could be cascaded into clients’ wider business needs, thereby strengthening agencies’ consultancy credentials.
Also, taking a pioneering approach to technology and fostering a culture of enterprise and experimentation could positively affect the talent turnstile, slowing the volume of departures to alternative industries and, at the same time, attracting a diverse flow of hungry new faces into the comms sector. One Working Dinners attendee described “a policy of enabling junior staff to work directly with the founders and CEOs of start-ups in the business portfolio”. They continued: “From a role profile perspective, it’s exciting for them to have a sense of variety and challenge. And they can say, ‘We built that’. It helps to make them feel more engaged in their job."
The Blueprint has noted a trend among communications agencies to diversify their revenue base by investing in ventures programmes and donating their creative and strategic expertise to help incubate start-ups directly under the agency roof. Such enterprises can only enhance the working environment and aid the professional development of staff who will feel they are participating in a culture of enterprise and innovation.
Despite the undoubted pressures facing the business, there is still a lot of room for optimism. Indeed, one of the core skills of an ad agency is that magical fusion of strategy and creativity: the unique ability to hone complex brand challenges into simple, human propositions that spark imaginative ideas that change behaviours and transform businesses. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the rapid rise of machines, the threat of chatbots channelling our purchase decisions and creative idea generation being farmed out to cost-efficient algorithms. However, we think there exists a massive potential in ‘humanised computing’. In other words, rather than being cowed by the assumed superiority of machine learning, businesses need to embrace the idea that human + computer is a potent, world-changing combination.
Genuine human creativity will remain a competitive advantage for many years to come, but just imagine if that creativity was supercharged and enabled by machine intelligence? The sooner our industry finishes squabbling about ‘algorithms vs creativity’, the sooner it can concentrate on what can be achieved through the effective symbiosis of both. Contrary to what doom-mongers may like to peddle about the death of the creative communications industry, we have a feeling that it may just be getting started.
(Picture credit: Mouni Feddag)