Usually I sit down to write these columns in my local north London coffee shop. Every table is occupied by people exactly like me – members of the professional middle class, enjoying free Wi-Fi and expensive coffee while we tap away on our standard-issue MacBooks.
But this morning, in the interests of scientific endeavour, I’ve set up base in a very different environment. It’s only a couple of hundred yards away, but it’s definitely a caff, not a coffee shop. The menus are laminated and have pictures of the breakfast options, all of which come with tea and toast.
Both places have a pile of newspapers on a table in the corner – the Guardian in my usual haunt, a selection of tabloids here. No one is reading them. The builders and tradesmen in the greasy spoon are all staring at a screen, just like the consultants and freelancers in the coffee shop.
The number of calories on the menu isn’t the only difference. And in one crucial respect, it strikes me that the clientele in the caff are more sophisticated than the media cliches up the road. Because in here, there isn’t a MacBook or an iPad in sight – this is a truly mobile-first audience.
It’s a stark reminder that the shift from desktop to mobile isn’t just about responsive websites and apps. While local tradesmen are managing their whole business from their mobile, agencies still operate in an overwhelmingly desktop environment. We’ve all dutifully consumed Ben Evans’ must-read Mobile is eating the world presentation – but I’m willing to wager that, like me, most of you clicked through the slides on a laptop, rather than swiping on your mobile.
Of course we all boast the latest mobile handsets. But we are biased towards the Apple ecosystem, while Google’s Android operating system accounts for 82 per cent of the global mobile market. We have monthly contracts and enjoy unlimited data, not the pay-as-you-go experience that 35 per cent of UK mobile subscribers have. Is it any wonder that we don’t really understand why consumers hate the bloated, data-hungry ads and branded apps that still constitute a mobile strategy for many brands?
It’s not news to point out that the typical agency team looks very different to the population that we are supposed to serve. As agency leaders, we need to work harder to find and develop talent with different backgrounds and experiences. But if we’re really going to help our clients understand the fundamental shift from PC to mobile, we’re going to have to change our culture and our processes, as well as our recruitment.
Understanding mobile properly is about a mindset, not just a handset. And if you want to really immerse yourself in a mobile-first environment, try trading your morning flat white for a sausage sarnie and a mug of tea.
Jon Davie is UK CEO at Zone. He tweets @JonDavie