The Ad Agency is Dead. Long Live the Ad Agency. « JWT Atlanta Blog

The Ad Agency is Dead. Long Live the Ad Agency.

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The Ad Agency is Dead.  Long Live the Ad Agency.

by Adam Hook

It’s tough to speculate or even joke about the future of anything digital. The future of flash banners looks like it’s going to be HTML 5. As Spotify’s popularity skyrockets, the future of socially connected music seems like it’s heading more toward a cloud-based, streaming system.

But who really knows? Who’s to say there won’t be something better than Spotify in a month or a year? Who’s to say there won’t be an innovation better or sleeker than, dare I say it, Apple?

At the rate these giant digital ecosystems evolve, die, and grow—where does that leave the ad agency, supporter and mouthpiece to many of these platforms and companies?

I think I have an answer—or the start of one, at least. And the answer doesn’t necessarily lie within the ‘ad’ industry at all. I think our future waits in Silicon Valley, where entrepreneurship and intellectual capital are king.

“Innovation is the defining feature of enduring companies,” David Lawee, Google’s VP of Corporate Development, recently said in a New York Times interview. “At Google, we foster individual entrepreneurs and pursue innovation systematically. We believe in big bets, and in high-risk and high-reward projects such as driverless cars and Android. By encouraging people to think bigger, we often achieve far more than what we initially imagine.”

Think about it. A company that originally made a simpler search engine is now poised to make a driverless car. All because of its incubatory corporate culture, and its drive to push skill sets and ideas beyond their perceived limits.

Say what you want about Google. Sure, they’re very dark overlord-y these days. But they’re still innovating, they’re still creating. And they’re still blowing minds.

Another gleaming success story of entrepreneurship? Instagram. Founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger. Both Stanford grads. Both have been out of college less time than the Real Housewives of Orange County have been on TV. For them, a billion-dollar company started with a simple idea, and recognition of an opportunity.

“Every photo you take communicates something about a moment in time—a brief slice of time of where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing,” Systrom said in a recent Forbes interview. “Instagram was created because there was no single place dedicated to giving your mobile photos a place to live and to be seen. Every startup should address a real and demonstrated need in the world. If you build a solution to a problem lots of people have, it’s so easy to sell your product to the world.”

Now back to us, the ad agency.

Sure, we think of a lot of ideas everyday—we’re an idea factory. A lot of those are really good. A lot of that thinking provides value, impression, buzz, and whatever you want to call it, on behalf of our clients.

But as our digital world continues to flood with noise and competition and Gersberms, how does that affect our product? What do we do when the banner ad just won’t cut it anymore? When people won’t even touch a Facebook app? When the ‘viral video’ is sent to pasture?

This is where our capital, our true asset, comes in.

What if we start thinking like Google? Like Twitter. Or like Instagram. What if we created interactions and innovative technology, not for clients, but on behalf of our own brand? What if we were the tech company?

No middle man. No client nonsense. Pure innovation and creation—straight to the public.

Let’s think of the future of the ad agency as more of a startup incubator. Where all our training, insight, strategy, and execution come together in a different way—and new platforms are born, raised, and sold. Stuff we created to push the envelope, improve lives, and drive commerce.

It’s time to think about the future of the agency as it functions in its current state. Because banner ads and Facebook Pages are cool. And they make us millions—and that’s cool, too. But you know what’s really cool?

A billion dollars.

One Response to “The Ad Agency is Dead. Long Live the Ad Agency.”

  1. Peter Bailey says:

    Nicely written, Adam. I was reminded of this article http://adage.com/article/digital/google-s-ad-agency-pitch-agile-creativity/236596/

    What do you think shift towards a "hackathon mode" model for agencies? About putting more power into the hands of the technologists?

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