Partner Content

The Revolution Won't Be Televised

Why agencies shouldn't limit themselves to advertising

By Raquel Chicourel

Whilst we are all excited about the year ahead, I can’t help but to reflect on the industry, its future, our future. 

We regard ourselves as an industry enamoured with creativity, innovative thinking, disruption and breaking the rules. 

It’s funny when you reflect on us, though. Of late we have been so wedded to our conventions and ways of doing things: we love our Byron Sharps, our Binet & Fields, our culture x collaterals, our disruption models, our frameworks of how advertising works, our commercial model based on time and giving our IP for free in pitches. 

Truth is, we haven’t disrupted ourselves enough. Today we are an industry with diminishing profit margins and in stagnation, at best. We have been talking about a need for reinvention for, at least, 5-10 years now.

Covid accelerated the need for our industry to change even faster and deeper than before. The way we live, work, learn, see the world is so different now. Covid has changed us forever. Our clients have changed their businesses more radically in the past 20 months than in the past 20 years. It is a different world. A world that demands a different level of creativity. We are in advance level play now. 

So, can we strive for better? 

Outside our bubble called advertising, there’s a whole exciting world of disruption and technology out there. Tech disruption has re-invented a plethora of industries. Think what Netflix did to movie rental, Airbnb did to holiday rental and Uber to mobility.

I find it interesting how often what we strategists use our creative thinking to help solve business problems yet the output is often an advertising solution. Why do we limit ourselves and our creative potency to advertising solutions?

Don’t get me wrong, I love creating big ideas, making films, apps and stunts but I think as an industry with amazing and diverse creative minds, we could do so much more! 

I believe this imaginary cap we set ourselves is perhaps partially driven by the way businesses silo creativity and force us to stay in lanes: advertising, branding, media, innovation, etc.

But, for the most of it, perhaps it is fear that holds us back. 

Why are we so scared when it comes to disrupting and reimagining ourselves?

Let’s not just be an industry that, at worst, just borrows from culture or at best moves culture on by 1% (big kudos to Balenciaga & Simpsons and Starburst Berries & Cream, we couldn’t get enough of these in 2021). 

This is not a rejection of films, stunts and making cultural dents. This is about wanting more of the power of 'AND' instead of the tyranny of 'OR'.

Brand AND Activation.

Digital AND TV.

Culture AND Collateral.

Ads AND Innovation.

Comms Ideas AND Start up ideas.

To disrupt ourselves tomorrow, we need all the above AND more. 

A handful of agencies have been doing it: Anomaly NY, Almap, Uncommon, &Rising and Grey. A handful of people too: Sir Hegarty, Nils Leonard and David Droga. After illustrious careers creating some of the most iconic ideas that transformed our industry, these amazing creatives are now focusing on shaping companies that will shape the world. 

How can we make these exceptions, our new norm? Why can’t we work with those actually changing and shaping not just culture but the future of the world, like Y Combinator and Andrew Horowitz?

I believe the answer lies in embracing the collision of difference.

Now more than ever before, we have creative and open cultures that are perfect ground for brewing the magic of diversity of thought. With people of different walks of life, different skills, different makes, different beliefs, different interests. 

See what happens when a creative strategist meets a coder and an effervescent eco-warrior. See what happens when a creative meets a robotics engineer. 

Maybe we should have a little less fear and loathing and more open mindedness and guts. Bring on the collision of difference.

Raquel Chicourel is the chief strategy officer at Grey


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