If you could ask John Winsor, Ty Montague or Ian Schafer any question at all, what would it be? Please leave your questions in the comments below. Thanks.
Next week I get to moderate a panel that includes Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus; John Winsor, CEO and founder of Victors&Spoils; and Ty Montague, co-CEO and founder of Co. Each of these “agencies” offers an alternative, if not an antidote, to the traditional advertising agency.
Deep Focus is a digital agency that calls itself an engagement agency. Its manifesto challenges the relevance of traditional agencies, arguing against a single-minded focus on awareness and in favor of real-time interaction. Ian claims his company — the first US acquisition by Engine — represents the ideal agency for the future. It emphasizes platforms over campaigns, believes in the permanence of social media, and strives to connect with consumers at every touch point.
Victors&Spoils, which recently prevailed against traditional shops to win creative duties for Harley Davidson, on top of a number of assignments for other impressive clients, takes its inspiration from the overused and oft misunderstood label “crowdsourcing.” Cliché’d criticism of crowdsourcing not withstanding, V&S carefully gathers communities of creators then sources the crowd for a wide range of creative solutions. It manages to offer ideas and solutions to clients for less than what traditional agencies charge while apparently satisfying its creative community with the extrinsic rewards of interesting assignments and a chance to exercise one’s creative muscles.
And finally, Co: introduces yet a third approach. Founded by refugees from JWT North America, BBH and IBM, the advertising collaborative begins with the assumption that one agency simply can’t provide best of breed capabilities necessary for the networked world. CMOs remain ill equipped to gather and unite best of breed resources. And holding companies let financial motives get in the way of crafting the perfect solution. Co: aims to steal a chapter from the Hollywood studio model, assemble the perfect team from loosely affiliated agencies, deliver the right blend of services for any given project, then disperse when that project comes to an end, promising clients better talent and greater efficiency.
Two things make each of these models possible: digital technology that fosters a new kind of collaboration; and the fact that they all started from scratch, free of the constraints, muscle memory or DNA of an existing advertising agency.
True it remains to be seen which if any of these alternatives will emerge as a real threat to legacy ad agencies. (In fact, a number of great full-service agencies are successfully adapting.) But based on enthusiasm, press coverage and early success, all three are on to something. Seems to me that whether you’re a traditional ad agency, a digital or interactive shop, or a CMO trying to figure it all out there’s something to be learned from what Ian, John and Ty are up to.
Questions for Victors&Spoils, Deep Focus and Co:
- Did you create your agency believing that the old model is broken?
- Can a traditional agency replicate what you’re doing?
- Is it possible to transform a company from one specializing in awareness and paid media to one that understands real time interaction, earned media, and the new networked environment?
- What would its greatest challenges be?
- Are engagement and UX the new art and copy?
- Does crowdsourcing have a place inside the traditional advertising or interactive agency?
- What makes the alliance model of Co: better than the integrated agency where people actually have experience working with each other?
- What kind of reactions are you getting from clients and prospects?
- If you were still back inside an ad agency, what would you implore management to do differently?
- In each of your cases, you personally re-invented your own careers, learning new skills in the process. Any advice for those in the room on how to do the same?
Those are but a few of my questions for the panel. What are yours?