Advertising Agencies, Social Media

Social Business Design: Agencies Need It Too

I joined the hordes of tech geeks down in Austin last week for my first SXSW. Between the countless parties, including one full of steam punkers (go ahead and look it up), I found myself at a number of interesting speaker sessions, mostly about advertising, technology, and innovation. One of the sessions I attended, however, was about the necessary balance between technology and creativity.

Speaker John Davis asserted that the argument over who delivers greater value to an assignment or task, tech heads or creatives, is a divisive one that needs to be squashed, given the need for both to create quality work. It's an old debate, but it's especially prevalent today in social marketing, where the desire for measurement and analytics is seemingly greater than the desire for interesting creative work.

No single person is good at everything, Davis said. It goes without saying, but he urged that everyone needs to work together in order to produce the best work. As a strategist, I personally fall on the side of creativity and bigger picture thinking. And while I'm analytical in nature, ANALYTICS is admittedly not my strong suit. But there are plenty of people within Dachis Group for me to defer to and collaborate with should I come across a problem I can't solve alone.

To that point, although corporations could certainly use our services in the area of social business design, I think there are plenty of agencies, which are hired for their interdisciplinary skills, that could use our services as well. I have a lot of friends throughout the ad industry, and the ones in larger, "more established," firms say they run into many of the same political and cultural issues that our clients have.

Companies come to us (agencies) for solutions. If they only knew how broken and mechanized our own internal workflows and processes were, they wouldn't hire us, simply based on assumption that we're no better off than they are. At no other place, short of maybe Apple, is the combination of technological and creative expertise as necessary as within an agency. We live and die by our ability to effortlessly collaborate with one another to get the job done. But are we all really walking the walk?

The short answer is no. Many of the most fabled agencies in the space have gotten so large their cultures have stagnated, and their employees have become cogs in a massive machine. How are these supposed change makers, cool hunters, and futurists supposed to solve their clients' problems, when they can't solve their own? It seems like everyone, from the pews to the pulpit, could stand to be a little more social.