Venture capital; angel investors; second rounds of funding. Few predicted that the financials behind the tsunami of inspiration and innovation in our industry would become so much a part of advertising agency vernacular. Happily, agencies are not simply admiring the action all around them.
Innovative partnerships and myriad "mutually beneficial" arrangements between agencies and start-ups – seed money, donated office space, bartered services – are popping up from Silicon Valley in the west in the US to Silicon Alley in the east. Creatives see the benefit of fresh perspectives, challenges to convention, sneak peeks and bold ways forward. Agencies hope for the extra perk of having a leg up on the competition to deliver firsts for clients. These relationships are also helpful when it comes to getting an inside track on what could be a brilliant acquisition or a new consumer trend.
Partnerships and fresh thinking came up again while I was visiting the Miami Ad School campus in Brooklyn. This trip was a reminder of the critical role agencies must continue to play in the education of our future colleagues. Of course, we love these relationships that allow us access to new talent and give us an understanding of what approaches and skills it will soon be bringing through our doors. And creating programmes with schools that help engage and immerse students in the practical challenges (and the fun) that make up agency life has the added benefit of keeping us on our toes.
Innovative partnerships bring challenges to convention, sneak peeks and bold ways forward
Schools are looking beyond the established summer internships and portfolio reviews to create longer-term endeavours that are core to their curriculums. Many of these ask that students, agencies and clients come together to work on "live" assignments, instead of just spec work and random jobs; often, these programmes require students to pitch their own work directly to clients on behalf of their sponsor agencies. While more demanding for all involved, they serve to remind agencies that we are expected to evolve and challenge our clients and ourselves faster than ever before. Fresh thinking from highly motivated new talent is an absolute that requires a small investment relative to the return.
Ultimately, all these partnerships guard against complacency. They ensure that extremely aggressive thinking and points of view challenge agencies and clients alike. They force all of us veterans to examine how we practise our craft and make certain that we are building organisations that have the right structures and sex appeal to attract the next generation of talent, which has exceedingly high expectations of their employers. The competition is fierce, but those engaged in building genuine and lasting partnerships with the best thinkers, creators and innovators will succeed.
Lincoln Bjorkman is the global chief creative officer at Wunderman
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