I’m still surprised to see ad agencies struggle after nearly 20 years but it occurred to me a few weeks back that most ad agencies are having a hard time modernizing and adapting to the needs of the new customer because they are stuck and organized internally in an old cultural model that has a history in the hierarchical models of production for film and television. Not terribly surprising and not terribly wrong. But the cultural struggle within these ad agencies is this friction between a very strict and hierarchical model where “advertising” teams who report to a CD are fundamentally different than that of a “digital” team who, by necessity born out of the complexity of their deliverables, are flat and collaborative. To reduce friction is to focus creative teams on developing work that is informed by customer needs and driven to change customer behaviors – for the better – first. Focussing on real customer needs and understanding real behaviors requires a much more robust and holistic view of the more permeable and fluid nature of marketing and branding today. A hierarchical culture is more brittle and cannot anticipate uncertainty nearly as well as a more collaborative system of working together. I would posit that a move to a more collaborative way of working that is more clearly focussed on discovering and understanding needs and behaviors would lead to agency output that would resonate more clearly with customers. Creative that is insights driven, needs and behavior driven, requires a different kind of process than traditional pyramid models.
This is the story of the Saw Mill Sasquatch. May he rest in peace. He was the last of his kind in these parts. As far as I can tell.
Folks said his constant stomping around and scaring the chickens was a welcome relief from the hard scrabble life we had back in those days. A bit of entertainment at the expense of the chickens. It got us out the door to do some ruminating under the stars as we held our torches over his footprints. He never took any chickens. And we never saw him. Just heard the squawking.
We’d scramble out of our houses expecting a fox or worse. And end up seeing a cloud of feathers in the moonlight. And his footprints of course. They were massive. We could never figure out why he did it. Maybe because he kept testing to see if the birds had learned to fly yet. Birds that don’t fly don’t really make that much sense I guess. So we’d stand there staring at those footprints of his as the feathers settled. And wonder where’d he be off to next.
We live up in the farthest reaches of the Saw Mill river. Jammed between the Saw Mill and the Hudson river about a days travel from the northernmost edges of Yonkers, that godforsaken excuse of a village. A bunch of stick-to-your-gin scrod fishing dutchman if you ask me. I’d prefer to think that we’re just a day away from the least civilized edges of Manhattan – except that Yonkers gets in the way and sticks in my craw when I try to say it like that. And I know the Sasquatch felt the same. It stuck in his craw too. A little too deeply in the end.