There has been a noticeable shift in the advertising industry, which has been brought about by two things: economic ramifications resulting in formerly siloed skills being moved "in-house," and the burgeoning areas of opportunity in digital. The former is obvious enough -- there has been an overlap of skill sets over the last five or so years, to the point that we’re all convinced we’re adding value by taking greater control of the production process. With shrinking budgets and deadlines to meet, sometimes taking more of the process into our own hands seems like the best way to cope and ensure that projects are being delivered.
The latter is tied to the fact that digital innovation is reshaping the way most companies work, making it possible (and necessary) to embrace new technologies and expand capabilities in record time. This development is innately complex, because it creates challenges when it comes to finding accurate descriptors. If you’re in a constant state of flux and evolution, how do you crystallize your USP and explain what it is you do? And, when a company has a long heritage of expertise in a certain category and a solid client base, why should they deviate from their traditional core business and invest in reinvention?
As an increasing number of companies adopt a flexible business model, it becomes even more important to promote an external understanding of these ever-changing capabilities. No one is going to hire you if they are confused about the products or services you are offering, so communication about change is key. It's one thing to take on groundbreaking projects that create new consumer experiences, for example -- but if it takes a year for your target audience to recognize what you're doing, you're really too late.
Taking the many obstacles and hindrances into account, why are businesses actively pursuing a more complex, ambiguous future? It's simple, really. Taking chances and moving into virgin territory might make it harder to slap a label on your company, but there is no denying that the unexplored route is more creatively -- and often more financially -- rewarding. Breaking out of your comfort zone and looking to the future is incredibly important, even when business is booming here and now.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few examples of beloved institutions we thought would be around forever, who are no longer with us due to their failure to evolve. I think we were all a bit depressed when Kodak fell into decline and filed for bankruptcy. The company's demise was particularly ironic because of their pioneering roots, being the very first to develop digital camera technology. Instead of staying true to their visionary history and broadening their focus to become an “image capture business,” Kodak firmly believed they were in the film business. Conversely, when everyone thought that Apple was in the computer business, they surprised us all, morphing into a design and innovation brand.
It's very clear that the model that has served us all for so long is changing. It always appeared that our neat definitions and tidy categories would sustain the big industry players for the foreseeable future -- but is that situation really conducive to great innovation? As categorizations fade to make room for increased integration and creative solutions, there is a palpable sense of fear and excitement. The risk may be greater, but so is the reward -- and while the playing field may be more level than it was in the past, it's also considerably wider with much more room to play.