The World: Insider's view - US

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 27 October 2006 12:00AM

In the fast-paced world of ideas, agencies need to stop paying lip-service to collaboration and start capitalising on their depth of talent, Brett Shevack says.

Despite being in one of the most creative businesses in the world, I have found from my experience in the US we are often slow to embrace change, particularly as it relates to the way we work with our clients.

Perhaps this is the DNA of any service business. And yet we live in a global community where traditional business structures are challenged daily. Where our clients can no longer afford to rely on traditional ways to source new ideas. A world that isn't just flat. It's open.

In the dictionary, "open" is defined as "affording unobstructed entrance and exit, accessible to all and unrestricted". This also defines the open-source world. Where the ways companies create and innovate are being reconfigured. Where the ability to instantly deliver content to whomever, where-ver, whenever, is as commonplace as our morning cereal. Given this changing landscape, are we as an industry really out in front and positioned to thrive in a new era of increased openness?

Clients know they can no longer control the flow of innovation within their walls. Most are recognising the critical need to find, own and monetise new ideas before their competitors. Alan Lafley, the chairman and chief executive of Procter & Gamble, has said: "Fifty per cent of all innovation will come from outside our walls." And he is not alone. Staples, the North America office product retailer, runs an annual Invention Quest, soliciting new-product ideas from customers.

Companies that used to brag about their research and development budgets now tout their ability to source innovation through new structures - joint venturing with start-ups, partnering with competitors, or licensing intellectual property they can't acquire. Whatever it takes to stay in front in a world where product lifecycles are shorter, bloated old-world companies are in freefall and there is no status quo.

As our clients are changing, we must too. We need to find better ways to leverage our greatest asset - talent - by sourcing it in a more collaborative way. We need to break down the walls internally and set up new structures to bring together all of the stakeholders of a business in order to get to the best ideas faster.

Rather than "agency of record", we should adapt the attitude of "catalyst of record", driving the pursuit of innovative ideas without territorial concerns. We need to foster an "owner" mindset for everyone working on a brand and incubate new ways of working with clients.

Clients have always judged agencies by the quality of the creative product. That will not change. To remain the gatekeeper of the brand in an open-source world, agencies need to stop paying lip-service to collaboration, capitalise on our depth of talent and apply it without the provincial concerns of the past.

- Brett Shevack is the vice-chairman, brand initiatives at BBDO New York.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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