How do we choose "the world's leading independent agencies"?
It's simple. We invite a selection of the most interesting agencies we have met in the past year to write these articles. For sure, they are often creative and effectiveness award winners, or Agency of the Year in their own countries. But that's not enough. They must also be visionaries.
Their only brief is to say what they feel needs to be said. These aren't sales pieces, or quarterly statements to shareholders. They are words from the heart.
Here's where it gets interesting.
A little like the Oscars, The World's Leading Independent Agencies seems to provide a kind of barometer of how the thought leaders in the marketing communications industry see themselves.
We published the first edition in the economic boom of 2006, and the previous one in the economic recession of 2009. We have been through confidence, bravado, defiance and stoicism.
So where are we today?
Like never before, the thought-leaders of our industry are soul-searching. Looking for a new beginning: for themselves, for their agencies, for their clients.
You'll find words from people who have discovered themselves: in India, in South Africa, in the Swiss Alps. You'll find words from people who have created communities that reflect their values: in Mexico, in London, in New York. Words from people who have reinvented their businesses. Words from people who embrace fragmentation, who embrace technological change, who embrace the right to experiment and therefore, sometimes, the right to fail.
You will find nothing like this in the quarterly reports of WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic Group and Publicis. Or in interviews with Sir Martin Sorrell, John Wren, Michael Roth or Maurice Levy. And quite correctly: they lead large institutional public companies, whose objective is to increase shareholder value through predictable quarterly earnings growth.
For the old guard, change is a problem to be managed.
For independent creative entrepreneurs, it is a challenge to be embraced.
Flexibility, adaptability and the capacity to embrace change are the name of the game in 2010 and beyond.
Agency leadership today is not about knowing all the right answers - it's about knowing how to ask the right questions.
If you are a creative entrepreneur, we hope you will find inspiration.
If you are a businessman, a marketer, we hope you share these values. Because your customers do. And in the age of Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, they don't keep their thoughts to themselves.
Welcome - to beginnings.
Julian Boulding is the founder and president of thenetworkone, firstname.lastname@example.org