As the third Ad Week Europe has come and gone, it’s time to step back and take stock of the state of our industry.
We predicted – hoped – at the beginning of the week that collaboration would be a key theme. I purposely brought the theme up while sitting on the Data Congress panel as it’s something we passionately believe in as an agency and something that’s needed now, more than ever, in every part of the industry.
It’s why I and my co-CEO Pippa Glucklich hosted: ‘Bridging the Innovation Gap: Partnering Tomorrow’s Tech with Today’s Brands’ – a showcase of how we at Starcom MediaVest are translating an entrepreneurial philosophy into the here and now. We invited three innovative tech start-ups on to stage to pitch in front of an audience of business leaders and a panel of leading clients; a very public commitment to our NextTECHnow (NTN) initiative.
We’ve partnered with Tech City to operate an open-door policy with start-ups in Shoreditch and many more across the UK to bring the best solutions to our clients (we have already introduced something like 70 start-ups to 20 of our client partners). Innovation through collaboration that’s seen us both support some of the brightest independent minds and inspire our internal talent.
As Unruly co-founder Sarah Wood told our audience: “Technology start-ups might be small, but they can solve big problems. We’re not just the cherry on the top.”
Of course developing better work for clients is the primary motivator behind such enterprises but they also tap into a wider workplace and societal trend of entrepreneurial thinking, living and working. The need for collaboration and co-creation is permeating through the advertising and marketing community fuelled, as it is already doing in consumers’ lives themselves.
Happily, collaboration is a theme that I saw over and again through the week, whether on the panels I or my colleagues participated in or the sessions we attended. It encompassed every other big theme of the week, from programmatic and data to transparency and collectively combating online ad fraud; realising that ‘creative’ does not reside within a walled garden, but is a collective endeavour, that creativity should be innate within all our businesses.
Be it a desire to standardise measurement in evolving niche areas, or educating clients as to the benefits of those, to ending the land-grab over just who “owns” data or creativity, there seemed a shared recognition that we should work closer together for the greater good.
As Maurice Levy noted in his AWE Bloomberg seminar, we have moved from a world of full service agencies to an “extremely successfully” separating out of the specialisms such as creative, media and PR. The right solution for the time, but it is time again for transformation.
“We need to transform ourselves if we want to be relevant to our clients,” he said. “We should avoid the layers, the ‘mille feuille’”.
He called for less layers, less meetings, more collaboration. Integrated, innovative thinking for our clients: a full service mindset however many partners involved.
Because it’s okay today to admit that no one person or entitity has all the answers: digital disruption is transforming our business, the behaviour of our customer and the business of all our clients. Advertising today is a very different beast to what it was 10 years ago, 10 months ago… even 10 minutes ago.
But as agencies, as leaders, it is our job to strive to find those solutions wherever they exist, and work together to realise them.
Throughout 2015 I think we’ll find more such new world thinking, far more collaboration across the industry with old boundaries eroding. We’re not there yet, but the green shoots I saw this week are promising.
For that, we should be thankful for Advertising Week Europe – an occasion to both celebrate our industry and hold it to account; to speak with and listen to our peers from within Adland and, increasingly, beyond.
Steve Parker, Co-CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, UK