Network Modelling: Planner agencies
Around this time last year, I was developing the ‘Grand Strategist’ model as part of my MA in account planning. Then, I finished my thesis at Rapp London (they thought it would be nice to do things together). Afterwards, we agreed to stay with each other and I began to apply my thinking in a different world of wonders; a world where ideas are powered by media, technology, data and creativity.
The Changing Challenge:
In my earlier notes, I vaguely touched on the changing communication landscape, discussing how brand, direct and digital agencies are desperate to own it. However, unfortunately, most advertising agencies are trying to own the ‘new communication landscape’, whilst living in the ‘old landscape’. There’s not much debate about not having a new landscape model to answer the changing landscape challenge. Now, I am interested in discovering one.
In my opinion, one of the major factors causing the ‘greatest age’ is a united approach from all disciplines, communities and industries to unearth the unknown. This approach affects not only specialised areas such as biology, physics, mathematics and communications; but it is also influencing our society in general. Within our society the impact of unification is twofold; it’s awarding us with a better control over things in life, and it’s consistently expanding the scale of control. We are now experiencing amazing new things, like brands with hundreds of millions of users, utilising the same platforms irrespective of race, age, gender or location – this is fascinating!
The Collaborative Big Bang:
Where brands are benefiting from the unplanned and unexpected wave of change, they are also facing danger at the same time. Without a doubt, brands are known by the ideas they own. In the past, brands used to own ideas by communicating them at a mass level on a selected scale. In the past, the channels used to deliver ideas were not as advanced as today so, traditionally, brands delivered ideas capitalizing on emotional participation techniques. Then, came better technology offering enormous scale and immense participation; people started to take control of how they consumed everything. On top of that, they started to express their ‘controlled choices’ with everyone. This gave birth to functional participation (on a mass scale) and higher expectations. Ultimately, these mega shifts in how people used to receive and share information, content and thoughts changed the overall behaviour of the society, resulting in a changed world, revealing a new type of communications landscape .
Today, people living in the ‘greatest age’ have developed an incredibly loyal attitude towards New Brands (brands borne during the digital era, IPA). Mad Men say brands are losing loyal audience. However, I disagree. Without a doubt, people have changed their definition of loyalty, but on a grand level they are more loyal than ever before. Their demand is simple ‘Transparent Value Exchange’ so there's no wonder why we only have one book shop (Amazon), one music store (iTunes), one wikitionary (Wikipedia), one market (eBay), one help desk (Google) and one community centre (Facebook).
The Ideas Crisis:
With an increasingly evolving definition of scale and participation, it’s becoming more and more difficult to deliver brand ideas. Today, what we really need is the strategy to create relevant and meaningful ideas, and an understanding to deliver them consistently across all environments / channels.
In recent years, whilst working on various brands from all sorts of different sectors, I got the feeling that we are moving away from owning and delivering our ideas consistently. That we were becoming more excited by the stuff we didn’t know about and less interested in keeping ideas intact. On various occasions, I experienced the same brand message being delivered with a different idea in one environment and with different thoughts in all others (I believe that I am not alone). Even a decade ago, this was alright as the scale that controlled ideas was mainly limited to a handful of channels. It was manageable if an idea was delivered in one environment in one way, and with a different story in all others i.e. ATL, Direct, PR, BTL etc. Today, things are more connected. If an idea is disconnected in one environment, it can easily be identified as being disparate to what it should be. This eventually results in damaging the overall communications investment.
Like every other industry, in advertising there are all sorts of brands: strong, good, bad, new, weak, boring etc. There are brands that run on ideas and there are brands that work around functionality. However, if ideas are the most important element in the communications business then we need strong advertising brands to take the responsibility of securing the core of our industry (ideas) from the dangers of the “greatest age”.
From Gridlock Planning to Collaborative thinking:
To design and develop ‘ideas’ for the new landscape of the “greatest age”, we need grand and specialist advertising agencies working together. The Enablement of this process requires a ‘planner agency’ i.e. Agencies that can bring everyone together (imagine if the advertising industry was one big advertising agency i.e. account management, media, creative, technology) and help everyone understand the value of ‘enduring ideas’. And when this happens, it’s simply satisfying, allowing better control over ideas and more confidence to the client (I recently had the opportunity to experiment ‘Network Modelling’ on couple of briefs).
To succeed in the new landscape, we need to encourage participation at all levels and maximise the scale of our thinking from the ‘inside’ and outside of our industry. In this, lies the hope to have connected and consistent ideas, built for brands, designed around people; as an oasis of calm amongst the seasons of the “greatest age”.