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Moving at the Speed of Culture

Johan sand-640Technology, digital and social look set to leave the ad industry lexicon very soon, writes Johan Sand.

If consumers have stopped talking about going online, maybe it’s time that brands and advertising agencies do the same. Consumers don’t talk about “online” anymore simply because this is already natural behaviour for them. Paradoxically, in the industry we keep talking about it “the online world.” Every day. We just have different names and buzzwords for it, and sometimes we even invent alternative meanings for them.

While somewhat ambitious, and possibly more of a five-year forecast, I predict that three words will be leaving our industry vocabulary in the year(s) to come – Technology, Digital, and Social – and with that, we will evolve different thinking and different approaches in telling brand stories.

To enable relevant, every day, story telling we have to add one critical ingredient to the mix – insights. An insights engine, a DMP (Data Management Platform), will be more important to every organisation, large and small, in tomorrow’s commercial landscape than any pre-existing marketing strategy. The clients, regardless of size, all share the same vision – to be relevant today and tomorrow in the world of their consumers.

If we can accept two things – that technology exist in everything we do today, and that the landscape where we do our everything is a healthy synthesis of all consumer touchpoints – then we have no reason to explicitly call out or separate technology, digital, or social. They are all integrated components of our marketing mix; they live as organic entities in absolutely everything we do.

“To enable relevant, every day, story telling we have to add one critical ingredient to the mix – insights.”


I believe that approaching creative thinking and story telling without the boundaries and inhibitions of compartmentalised marketing concepts, will be instrumental for tomorrow’s brands and agencies. This freedom of thinking has already begun to evolve and empower the way we view the world and communicate within it today.

The thought of promoting a limitless approach to clients, though, can be overwhelming. Not every client is ready. The reality is that for some brands, full marketing integration may require change in corporate culture, organisational structures, skill sets, and mental models. In short, it may well represent a mammoth task that will take years to see through.

However, that does not mean that we shouldn’t demonstrate the value of true integration; that we shouldn’t practice what we preach. On the contrary, by showing clients, even with small, humble steps, how real integration works, how real insights work, we inject boosts of confidence and evidence of success with the client that over time can allow them to make the transition.

Here at Cawley Nea\TBWA’s Digital Arts Network, we embrace tomorrow’s reality through new agency models – or nuances of our main, integration model, if you will.

On one hand you have our two-team model with Insights and Imagineering (yes, we borrowed the latter term from Mr Disney). In essence, it means walking away from the classic dynamic duo we’re all familiar with, to a hive mind, from tactics to platform thinking, to less is more, to insights-fed and insights-led, from ad holes to content factories, embracing the culture of action, ultimately empowering brands to move at the speed of culture.

By leveraging super charged insights in an open, multidisciplinary Imagineering team, with our operating system Disruption® Live, we enable brands to be relevant every day. Not in social, not in digital, not above the line or with a specific technology. Just relevant storytelling, every day.

“Today, brands have two choices – they can lean on their Agency of Record or appoint specialists.”

For instance, in partnership with Electric Ireland we have created an insights engine that allows Electric Ireland to tell relevant stories to, for example, to customers who are on the verge to churn so we can influence their decision making process, to people that share values with the brand, to individuals with common interests with other customers, to people that are at specific life stages where Electric Ireland can add value as a progressive brand – in a word, relevant.

This engine has been created by designers, architects, creative technologists, UX unicorns, scientists and marketing generalists, a multi-disciplinary team with the single purpose of delivering insights to empower the brand to tell its story. Together, with Electric Ireland in this case, we have embraced the realities of tomorrow and created a platform that is future-focused and indicative of our ever-changing world.

On the other hand we have a modular agency offering, a bespoke agency assembled for our clients’ brands. This is our last prediction for the year(s) to come – the art of assemblage.

Today, brands have two choices – they can lean on their Agency of Record or appoint specialists. The challenge is that AORs rarely move at the speed of culture, and specialists require more specialists to satisfy integrated communication requirements. You may eventually have a group of partners filling individual gaps, but they’re not working in harmony together.

We believe there is an elegant solution to this for every brand. What if there was a partner that was engineered specifically for each brand from the ground up; designed to naturally fit within a brands’ existing ecosystem? We, at the Digital Arts Network (DAN), are a modular option for when clients need a bespoke partner that is custom built around their organization and business needs, powered by super charged insights. We believe that tomorrow, fully integrated agencies need the capability to offer clients their own modular agency.

For tomorrow’s agency I see a number of concepts that we cling on to today, melt into the integrated marketing mix, which will inspire a different breed of creatives. Guided by insights, or super charged insights as we call our DMP powered solutions, brands can move at the speed of culture and tell relevant brand stories every day, and some brands will require a modular agency assembled from the ground up, specifically for their brand. These are our predictions, and this is how we’re building DAN.

Johan Sand is head of DAN, Cawley Nea\TBWA’s Digital Arts Network

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (December 2015)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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