The Agile Agency. An ad agency’s culture hack

Some 2-3 years ago we decided at Duval Guillaume that we had to re-invent ourselves, that we had to take a more fundamental step in the way we organized ourselves and of course in how we thought about digital as a key element in the communication or advertising that we make. A lot has happened since then but if the 25 Cannes Lions or the Agency of the Year wins of the last 2 years mean anything then it’s probably that we’re doing something right.

The decisions that were taken seemed like the right thing to do but weren’t always that obvious. We decided to get rid of all internal developer resources so we could focus more on our core strenghts – strategy & creativity. At the same time we stopped using online account managers to support the ‘regular’ account managers and we’d stop working with project managers. Instead we organized tech/dev resources to support the creative teams in their creative process and we hired digital producers to play the crucial role between our own teams and the 3rd party developer’s team. All of this in a way that would allow us to keep finetuning & tweaking the idea even while in development to maximize the outcome.

AgileBoard

We were always sure this was the right way to go and we understood the core philosophy behind agile thinking that supported the idea that what we were aiming for wasn’t that crazy. Just like with every good idea though there’s a difference between the idea and the execution and it was/is with guys like Bart, our head of digital production, that we managed to implement agile in the agency. And this in such a way that it’s constantly evolving and that we keep adapting, the essence of agile. And now Bart has written a book about what agile means in an agency environment, most likely the first book on the topic of agile in advertising agencies since he only found books on agile in software/web development when researching the topic.

To stay true to the topic the book was written in an agile way. Of course :-) A must read when you’re in advertising, download the book right here: The Agile Agency, how lean and agile will transform your advertising agency. Another key element in agile thinking that I learned from Bart is that you benefit more when you’re transparant about your own progress, so read the book and add your thoughts.

Stratégies Gagnantes: Agile Planning

About a week ago I did a presentation at an event in Charleroi called “Stratégies Gagnantes” (which means as much as ‘Winning Strategies’) together with other speakers such as Michael Cawly (COO Ryanair), Nathalie Klein (Director Consumer Insights Coca-Cola), …I was asked to present about what I thought would contribute most towards winning strategies from a marketing point of view. This based on my experience in digital and specifically as Head of Digital at Duval Guillaume Modem, the agency I work for in Antwerp.

The topic I chose to talk about was ‘agile’, more specifically ‘agile planning’. We all know by now the world is changing, and it’s changing fast. So I didn’t want to go in to much about that, but instead focus on how we need to rethink the way we plan to cope with a situation that is always ‘in motion’. It was an easy choice to make since I’ve been fascinated about agile and about how we should use this thinking (that originates from the agile software development) into our business, into the way we think about planning for the future. Neil Perkin has written quite a few good posts about ‘agile thinking’ as key for anybody who wants to be more future proof. I’ve used some of his thoughts in this presentation.

In the presentation bring forward 4 ideas that need to be considered when thinking about introducing agile planning to your organisation:

  1. Ideas from anywhere: get out of the organization silos – idea generation happens best when people across all business lines get together
  2. Plan for the unknown: imagine what would be possible instead of solely relying on what you can deduct from past experience
  3. Measure to improve: instead of measure to report – make sure you get the learnings when you can still adapt
  4. Budget for change: make sure there’s time and money to make the change happen

Let me know what you think.

The future belongs to the geeks…

Nobody else wants it.

This is without a doubt one (of many) personal favorites out of all the cartoons Hugh MacLeod has created in the past x years.

I think there’s a lot of simple truth in this one. Every day/week/month I see innovation that impacts the business I am in and which found its origin in technology, software development or something like it. And then I’m not only talking about pure technology innovation but also about innovation of business processes, creative thinking, etc.

An obvious one is about how technology is driving change in the media landscape. And then especially when you think about how long existing ‘traditional’ media are transforming, not just the new media that gets added. Particularly the interactive tv experience is something that fascinates me a lot recently. In this domain several big players are active – television manufacturers, service providers, content networks, … – and yet somehow I believe the main innovation will come from outside, from a few geeks in the corner that will really create a richer tv experience using a tablet device or whatever. They can think without bounderies of current business processes, revenue management, … no old business models to try to protect. There’s a lot of cool stuff out there already.

Another recent example of technology driving change, and this time in business thinking is Agile Strategic Planning, really interesting stuff if you ask me. This whole idea is an answer to changing consumer/brand needs but is based on a concept that has been used (by some) in software development for almost 10 years now. Neil Perkin used the following quote in a recent post while trying to explain the need for this agile thinking:

“Our structures need to be more speedy. Speed used to kill now lack of speed kills. Lets have organizations that can iterate quickly and empower its folks to make decisions. Percolating decisions up and down an organization makes little sense”

Agile strategic development, adaptive marketing, lean planning, … all terms that highlight more or less the same thing. We have to start thinking in ways that allow for much more iterations and changes while the process is ongoing. A new kind of strategic planning that is heavily influenced by concepts developed in software development.

Just 2 examples in my area of interest that came to mind when I saw this cartoon again. But yeah, the future belongs to the geeks, I’m sure of that.