Blockchain has been getting a lot of love recently. The platform that underpins BitCoin, which started 2017 at an all-time high and is rapidly becoming a valid currency, has been seen by many as a panacea for those who campaign for true transparency and neutrality of the net.
Its idea of a distributed autonomous network, every node keeping the rest honest, complete with a borderline unhackable ledger of activities across the chain, has got industries from music to finance jumping up and down with excitement, heralding new industries, new models, fresh ideas, and next-level transparency and fairness.
The blockchain is what the web was supposed to deliver, before the siren servers of Google, Facebook and Microsoft started to run everything, own everything, and make the lion share of the profits from everything.
Owning everything was never the idea of the web. In fact, owning anything is beginning to become a bit of an outdated model, period.
The world is unusually unusual right now. Industries continue to be turned on their heads, political systems are challenged, technology marches inexorably forward to the next brain-spinning innovation, jobs-for-life are a thing of the past and jobs-in-the-future are changing with the rise of AI.
In its first editorial of the year, Wired magazine stated: "We live in uncertain times. In this rapidly changing, aggressively agitated moment, it’s very difficult to discern what the future holds."
So the question is why would anyone who is servicing client business want to own the resources to deliver those services, when the world is in such constant flux? Who needs that inflexibility in their life? The constants aren’t constant enough for business to enjoy economies of scale in this model, so why bother? Which is why agency models will change.
Why would anyone who is servicing client business want to own the resources to deliver those services, when the world is in such constant flux?
While the buzz in the industry right now is around the acquisition of creative businesses by traditional management consultancies – in-effect an old school approach to buying-in (owning) resources – the newest breed of agencies are challenging conventional thought with regards to what an agency needs in order to service big client work.
Creativity and innovation necessarily requires freedom, which is why so many of the best creative minds in the world own their own businesses. Trying to own them, bring them in-house, won’t get you the best results.
The marble hallways of agency networks aren’t sustainable. There is even a strong argument that even the existence of an office at all is counter intuitive in this world of surprise, connectivity, and pivots.
In a recent chat with a client we discussed how his brand had been working with a high performance growth consultant. At the heart of his approach to growth is a determination to jettison anything at all that drags the business back – you need to be as frictionless as possible at all times.
You must be as light as possible. You need to be honest about what works and what doesn’t, at all times. Friction is bad, it slows you down just at the time when you need to be going at full throttle. Which is why, perhaps, the office goes. The studio goes too. The management layers disappear.
The agency role is to become the ultimate interface layer into the creative world for clients. The better the interface layer, the more successful the agency will be. In this model, creative resources are accessed in the form of a twist on the blockchain model, a distributed creative network (DCN), independently functioning, infinite in size, transparent to all.
The agency role is to become the ultimate interface layer into the creative world for clients. The better the interface layer, the more successful the agency will be.
By keeping core competencies in-house as lean as possible, and drawing on their own, curated DCN, such agencies are able to help clients deal with whatever the world throws at them. Access to an unlimited and ever-changing pool of resources means that clients can be proactive and reactive in their marketing approaches, freeing up their brand to live where is most appropriate, and building maximum value into it.
The next generation startup stack that provides start-ups with free cloud tools to get up and running quickly are as equally appropriate to bigger businesses. Communications tools, storage, and applications can be increasingly cloud-based.
This frees everything up, and means creatives can work wherever is most creatively productive, client meetings can be held either on-site or at a relevant inspirational spot, and culture can be supported by holding weekly meetings at rich, varied venues.
Ultimately it requires work to keep it cohesive, but the end-product is a business that can help other businesses deal with the only constant in their business – change, much like the arrival of Bitcoin itself.
Chris Jefford is the founding partner at Hometown London.