And, looking back at a couple of years of consulting, I've noticed that I'm doing more and more training stuff and less fancy PowerPointing about brands and the future. Obviously, some of this is just what happens to planners of a certain age and some of it is to do with recessionary investment strategies. But at least some of this is a sign of businesses emerging from years of thinking and indecision and getting on with getting their people tooled up with appropriate skills.
For example, I've had a couple of conversations recently with large media planning/buying organisations who've realised that their people need to be much more comfortable commissioning, talking about and dealing with creative stuff and creative people. They're buying more content every year and are realising it can't just be ordered by the yard. And, very smartly, they're thinking about how to add those kind of skills to the business, getting their people comfortable dealing with film-makers, writers, choreographers, whatever.
Similarly, I've spent time with a few digital agencies this year, working on how they present themselves and their work. This is, after all, the core skill of most old-school agencies, and if the digital places want to compete credibly this is something they need to understand. Many of them clearly used to think that having the best ideas and being closer to the future was enough; now it's dawning on them that they're often out-presented, not out-thought.
It's not that they're dimmer than their old-school peers, it's just that advertising's been around for a long time and has embedded some folk wisdom about presenting into the business culture. Digital agencies are starting to add those skills, and that focus, to their repertoire.
And brand owners have changed tack too - where once they lapped up presentations about the future of this and that, now they're focused on giving people specific digital skills. They've realised that digital is like swimming: you can't learn it by looking at it, you have to just dive in and do it. So they're encouraging and training their people to be active participants in digital culture, to use Tumblr, Flickr, Twitter et al and to seize the means of production and communication from their agencies.
At which point I must sign off for a while. I'm having four weeks off to do some training myself, perhaps to learn the correct use of semi-colons. Have a great summer. See you in September.