Rolling With The Changes

I don’t doubt that Renny Gleeson, Global Director of Digital Strategies at W+K, knows how to sell cutting edge digital solutions to the world’s leading brands. But do the world’s leading brands know how to buy cutting edge digital solutions? And does an agency that made its name in print and on TV know how to generate and deliver cutting edge digital solutions?
Let’s look at one man’s view of the struggle:

Our communications institutions, by and large, weren’t built to leverage the full-contact engagement enabled by emergent technology platforms – nor the very real socio-economic systems those virtual tools are creating. And at the same time, the financial infrastructure that supports our industry, and the brands it services, is still playing catch-up to the on-the ground realities we face…
Our ideas must be aided and abetted by multi-channel transmedia storytellers. The skill sets necessary for brand engagement in an always-on world are different. A provocative relationship requires truths, deep human insights, engaging narrative and emotive power. But the very notion of what constitutes a relationship is in flux as we are assimilated by the borg.

“Assimilated by the borg.” Damn. There’s your engaging narrative in four words. At any rate, Gleeson is correct that the ad business is ill-equipped to operate in a radically democratized media environment. Yet, agencies and the brands they support have no choice but to adapt, unless they are willing to opt out of digital altogether.
I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I will offer this. When I built a team of content pros at BFG Communications, I did it with journalists. I knew we needed people to dig deep and tell a story in the multimedia universe our clients’ customers inhabit. It’s my contention that journalists and videographers are the ones best equipped to do the job. Granted, I handle my team’s traditional copy needs, but the point remains. Going forward, the ad biz needs an injection of talent from outside the portfolio schools and academic programs set up to feed the industry. And I don’t limit this to journalists, but extend it to anthropologists, sociologists, technologists and so on.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.