The Power Of Reimagination

It’s amazing how many things we don’t question, how many critical assumptions powerfully shape the world around us that are based on muscle memory and reasons that we forget no longer exist.

Hotels have large, grand reception desks, that nowadays may house a laptop or funky tablets. There’s always a desk — because that’s how hotel reception has always been, for reasons we long forgot.

Retail stores sell what they have in-store and nothing else. They keep virtually all inventory out on display, with several sizes of each. The have large stationary tills where people line up to pay. The reasons for this entire construct have all faded.

Hairdressers, auto repair shops, banks, divorce lawyers: all customer-serving entities that have decided to be open during “office hours,” a concept that comes directly from the age before artificial light had been invented.

Education still prioritizes topics like mathematics, science, reading and writing, because they were most useful to scholars of the early middle ages.

Televisions still force us to navigate content through TV channels, because for many years that’s how people viewed content.

Microwave oven control panels continue to be modeled on a user interface designed for behavior of the 1970s.

Companies blindly use Twitter for customer service because that’s what everyone else does.

One of the words I love the true meaning of the most is “reimagination.” Sadly, it’s been lost to PR babble to mean virtually nothing, but at the heart of this notion is something deeply profound. What “reimagination” should be is boiling your product or service down to its most simple idea, forgetting everything you’d ever learned, and building something based on thinking for the modern age.

Arguably, if you were to reimagine the education system for the modern age, it would probably favor self-learning, creativity, networking, research skills, a well-curated Twitter feed, and building relationships over knowledge.

If you were to reimagine customer service for the modern age, you’d want to avoid  disgruntled customers broadcasting their anger to the world in 140 characters. Instead, you’d be instant-messaging them on their phones in private.

Retail stores would probably learn from online behavior: Stock one item in every size, do the bulk of fulfillment online, project websites onto storefronts to allow people to purchase 24 hours a day, offer recommendations to shoppers, and sell absolutely everything in their inventory. After all, shop shelves online are infinite.

Gyms reimagined for the modern age would probably focus less on machinery and instead on software. They’d figure out how to capture workout data, how to coach people in healthy living, with apps (and results) their point of difference.

Many of the most successful companies of our time are the ones that challenged conventions. It was Uber forgetting all the things taxi companies had learned, Airbnb ignoring years of hotel market research, Vice and Buzzfeed ripping up the manual to successful journalism, Netflix self-disrupting before it had to.

We haven’t done much reimagining in advertising. Generally the changes in the marketplace, the new possibilities we have, the new requirements of our clients are things we’ve bolted onto the edges, not reimagined ourselves around. Digital, mobile, social still generally remain separate units, and in the vast majority of agencies we still keep media and creative separate.

It’s an understandable situation that’s been working, generally — but as time progresses, it become less viable. Technology and modern behaviors make these old constructs ill-suited to the contemporary advertising landscape.

In my job, I meet technology companies who fall between the gaps of media, creative, mobile and social: companies set to change the entire future of advertising. Still, as things stand, these companies can’t get traction because the new world doesn’t fit the foundations build.

I see clients keen to do the world’s first ____, but who are asked to complete spreadsheets to show the ROI for something that’s never been attempted before.

I see media owners making new ad units who need to speak to digital agencies to bring the canvas to life — yet are unable to.

I see technology that would transform CRM or retail, but require different client teams to make these happen.

If we’d never known advertising before, if we had no idea what social media was, what a smartphone was, how would our advertising environment look?

Some agencies like mine have brought the creative agency, media agency, PR agency, events, social , sponsorship under one roof. It's a start and it’s working well.

So let’s destroy the assumptions of advertising and find new ways to work.

Let’s reimagine our trade and make bold new things happen.

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