Evolve or Die

June 20, 2016

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by Sean Dallaskidd

The problem with change is that you don’t notice it while it’s happening. I remember when the publishing world was caught by surprise a few years back by something called the Internet. It was seen as a trend, an interesting platform but not something that could threaten the industry. The result? The “death” of print. In the lead up to it, there was plenty of opportunity to test the platform, learn and make mistakes before mass adoption took root. Unfortunately, most publishers failed to evolve their model and by the time they realized the opportunities of the platform, it was too late.

Our industry now finds itself in a similar space. We work on projects and programs that can’t be defined by any one category. The silos of marketing, advertising and PR have collapsed, and technology platforms are evolving at a breakneck pace. Brands need to communicate their messages online, offline and through blended experiences.

If our industry is going to survive, we have to evolve – and fast. We need to test, learn and adapt; the technologies we use, the platforms we choose and how we think about communications. Today I see young people that have skills that don’t fit neatly into any one category. Creatives that know data, account leads that pitch via Snapchat… the list goes on and on. As an industry, we need to embrace them because they are our future. We need to give them space to grow, not wedge them in. We need to look at things differently and be open to taking risks, not just talking about it.

There was a session at Cannes that covered design thinking. There were three points that stood out in particular. Design is natural. It can bring out the natural strengths of a product. Design is culture. It needs to be ingrained into the brand DNA. Design is research. We must take the time to understand our audience. Design thinking isn’t a fancy term for solving problems, it makes us question the way we see things.

I see an opportunity for our industry to leverage design thinking as a way to move forward. Does that mean that we need to be open to changing the business model, experimenting with new technologies and asking the “uncomfortable” questions more? I think so. I believe that the agencies willing to go through the growing pains will come out of the process much stronger and, more importantly, be relevant.