Culture Changes Everything

Brands and agencies must learn to be humanly relevant if they want to connect to consumers.

Two years ago, we wrote an essay on how integrated advertising, as a discipline, was dead - the future of advertising was about making sure expansive ideas lived in the most humanly relevant channels. It's not about matching luggage (who loves how the website looks the same as the poster?). It's about curating an idea into unconventional and unexpected touchpoints; igniting intimacy between the brand and consumer in a humanly relevant way.

Now, two years later, we're back. Breaking from conventionality, we'll use this opportunity to share our journey with you.

Interestingly, some of the agencies we shared the last integration supplement with don't exist any more, or at least they have been merged into something else. The agencies we once thought of as "the establishment" are unrecognisable from two years ago.

Integrated thinking is alive and well in all corners of the world. Look at the 2011 D&AD winners if you need evidence. However, what's changed is how it's now the norm. So, our point is, why categorise it as anything other than advertising?

What have changed in the past two years are the daily realities of advertising in a technology-driven media revolution. More complex, multi-disciplined work is now necessary. It's not about scale; it's about scalability.

So, let's start with an obvious statement about the landscape in which we operate: we wouldn't be having the conversation if it weren't for the continual innovation of digital media. Reflect for a moment about some of the last two years' worth of digital innovation alone: the iPad, smartphones, wi-fi, 4G, Google+, app explosion and group-buying platforms. Of all the digital data that exists in the world, 98 per cent has been created since we authored our last essay.

Everything is now digital

So, every day there are more and more ways of reaching someone, yet the irony is that, while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it has never been harder to engage with them. Consumers are switching off from the continual bombardment of digital noise.

Based on these realities, we restructured our people, our processes, our work, our planning, our network and our philosophy. Everything from our name to our job titles has taken us to a new place away from the old notions of integration. For this to occur, we underwent the most radical change of all: we reinvented our culture; what we call our "UNO" culture. We created our agency from the inside out. Only by having a unified culture in place could we undertake the painful changes to evolve from an integrated agency into a global ideas shop.

A focus on innovation

Playing it safe is the most dangerous thing any agency can do. In the past two years, we have had to stay on top of changing consumer behaviours, master emerging technologies and reinvent our model in the process. Shockingly, the rate of change will never be this slow again. Finding a way to make innovation part of our culture is key. For example, at Gyro, we abolished the creative department; building instead an "ideation" department that is a fusion of planning, suits, creative, technology and data disciplines.

An idea in beta

The faster we are, the better we become. The fact is, we should all learn something from software developers and start-up culture. Embracing the agile, learning to prototype platforms and applications, and reconfiguring teams and processes are changes we have made to stay competitive. We created a process called "ignition" that enables us to embrace the new "team" and be agile. We got rid of each office's profit and loss. We now have one P&L, one process and one culture. This was the only way to make these changes happen in a meaningful way.

Due to our approach, we have seen most of what we have created this year for our clients manifest itself as a platform, not a campaign. We integrate across disciplines to derive these platforms and "disintegrate" to execute them, ensuring that what happens in each channel has the same DNA, but not the same execution. FedEx, L'Oreal, HP and Heathrow Express have all worked with us in this way.

Be humanly relevant

This is our own positioning: to be humanly relevant. But behind it is a thought: brands and agencies have to master engagement if they want to connect. The way to do this is by being relevant. We have learned that the emergence of social platforms and the increased ease with which brands can engage directly with their consumers demand agencies to learn new skills and tactics - real-time engagement, conversation strategy and, for example, crowdsourcing. The ability to customise a specific message to a specific person at a specific moment is within our grasp, and with that comes the need to establish rules if we are to act in a more intimate way.


As an industry, we had become an assembly line - predictable and suitable only for certain tasks. We noticed that we needed to be an inter-disciplinary company with adaptability built in. We broke down traditional ways of working that have pervaded our industry for 50 years. Internally, we have embraced creative collaboration. From structural changes to the way we brief a problem, we recognised that, if we wanted to be innovative, we needed innovative, rounded people - not necessarily advertising people. The way we collaborate with external skills or wider agency network skills have evolved. It is everyone's responsibility to be creative and innovative, not just the creative department.

For example, we recently did a pitch and noticed that no-one could tell the creative people from the media people from the planning people in our agency. They all finished each other's sentences, regardless of what we were talking about. It has taken a long time and it's still a work in progress, but this is the "end of the rainbow" for which we have strived.

Globally, integration is alive and thriving - well, at least for those brands and agencies with cultures that embrace change.

We can't claim we have it 100 per cent figured out, but it's truly exciting to be getting close. What a time to be alive in our industry.

Ian Kerrigan is the executive creative director at Gyro


  • Integrated thinking is alive and well in all corners of the world. Look at the 2011 D&AD winners if you need evidence.
  • What has changed is how it's now the norm.
  • So why categorise it as anything other than advertising?

From Campaign's 'What next in integration' supplement, December 2011


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