Our society is heavily driven by technology, with new platforms and innovations cropping up to make simple tasks in our personal and professional lives easier. It’s no surprise that the creative industry is now looking at technology to boost thinking and collaboration.

From the buzz around Marcel to companies like Tongal, Vidmob and Mofilm, it’s clear that collaboration is all the rage. However, earlier this year, Havas’ crowdsourcing agency Victors & Spoils announced it was shutting its doors, showing that sometimes collaboration and crowdsourcing isn’t always a lucrative business model. 


Publicis introduces its AI connections platform, Marcel


How can agencies and partners prepare for a more tech-driven future where creativity and collaboration thrive? Here are three ways.


Ruthlessly discover your core competency

I’ve learned that it’s very important to be brutally honest with what your team is best at. In any sized business, this knowledge helps you enormously as it provides a steady foundation to build upon. You’ll also discover decision-making is clearer and more directed.  

For many in our industry the creative product is the perceived strength, and certainly this is the best place to start. Take this a step further though and think about a company like Tesla. They’re a carmaker first and foremost. The cars they manufacture are their product, but these cars aren’t the sole basis of the company’s huge valuation. The brand’s greater value comes from the foundation they are laying for the future of transportation and battery technologies, not the Model 3 itself.  


For a creative company like ZERO, yes, project-for-hire output is hugely important, it’s our reason for existing. But our deeper and longer term value resides in knowing how (and why) to build technologies that support the collaborative, storytelling process.

Wherever your strengths lie, build from them.  

Experiment and take smart risks

Building from these strengths takes experimentation and some risk.  Eventually you’ll need to push chips onto the table, but first definitely play around a bit.  Bring some stuff into the world, see how it feels – does it play to your strengths, do users want it, what are the potential upsides and what are your points of potential failure? 

Agencies can use experimentation to think of themselves not as creative service vendors, but as platform providers in their own right. If the future is short short form and direct-to-consumer (see Katzenberg’s billion dollar announcement a month ago), I can’t think of an industry better suited to dominate succinct storytelling.

"Netflix that stuff up, man. Find different ways to collaborate with your viewers and clients."

Imagine how different the landscape would be if consumers recognised that a specific agency told the amazing stories they wanted to watch.  Consumers might follow that agency because of their storytelling chops, and advertisers then might choose to partner with that agency due to their follower types. Imagine the continuing value of this scenario, not to mention the custom data and insights that can be leveraged. Netflix that stuff up, man. Find different ways to collaborate with your viewers and clients. 



Execute on your decision

Now let’s bring it back to ground level.  

At some point in the lifecycle of your experiments, you’ll need to decide – green light or red light. This decision will be an arithmetic between time, expense and confidence.  I remember the moment I decided to green light ZYNC (which was acquired by Google in 2014).  Someone I have great admiration for said we were about one-third of the way to a launchable product… I ignored them and launched it anyway.  So perhaps it’s a balance between time, expense, confidence and willful ignorance!  



Going all in on an idea, campaign or project isn’t always an easy decision, but it comes down to trusting your gut and being fully honest with yourself and your team. Even after leaning into your core competency and experimenting heavily, not every idea deserves the green light. I’ve learned that any great promise has to be met with equally great dedication. And that’s the toughest part of the innovation process – going for it, adjusting and pushing day after day. 

Todays agencies are engineered to innovate voraciously on behalf of their clients, as well they should. But, in a project-based world without the ‘stickiness’ of AOR, agencies must look beyond the immediate and invest in building collaborative technologies, platforms and their own grand audiences. 

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