Old Cultural Models

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. structure1