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.

Open Game Format

When you read about an Open Game Format in most cases it is about games such as GTA in which you can wonder around freely and play missions in any order you want. Sometimes when Open Game Format it’s referring to game modes such as Free For All in Call Of Duty 4, where everyone plays against everyone – no rules. When I was thinking about what I would call an Open Game Format earlier on in my car I was thinking about something totally different than what I described in the intro. I do think it follows a bit of gaming experience (although probably not much) to follow my thinking but here we go…

rainbowsix

Let’s say you like the COD4 multiplayer gameplay but you got a bit bored of the maps by now. But maybe, just like me, you still prefer it over Rainbow Six: Las Vegas 2 because the controls are easier, feel more natural. What you miss in COD4 though is that when you get shot, you only get a snapshot of how that happened, whereas Halo3 offers this ubercool 3D scene that you can view from all angles giving you a better idea of what happened. But then again, fighting aliens is not your thing so what you do?

Let’s imagine all these game elements where created in layers, all based on industry standards. Let’s imagine there’s a layer for the scenery, characters, weaponry, type of games, effects, … and let’s imagine that you could combine each and every one according to your liking. So let’s take on map from Gears Of War, the controls and weaponry as well as type of games from COD4 and combine that with the 3D scenes from Halo3…. mixing, loading… there’s your game. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

I think it would be. It’s never going to happen of course but a man can dream no? I must admit I was surprised that there wasn’t a conversation about something like an Open Game Format going on already, similar to ODF etc.

Marketing is an investment

John Dodds wrote down a good ‘description’ of what marketing really is as a response on the ‘marketing is the price you pay for creating mediocre products’ statement that was repeated heavily at SxSW.

“Marketing is not an expense, it’s an investment cost that is inherent in the creation of your product/service from development through promotion and distribution and on to the sales experience and post-sales service. That’s a subtle accounting distinction but a crucial one. The price you pay for not understanding marketing is much worse than mediocre products – it’s commercial extinction.”

Make sure you read the whole post, as I think it’s spot on!

Getting ready for MIX08

Within a week we’ll be on our way to Vegas again for the MIX08 conference. I quite enjoyed last year’s MIX conference with the announcements of Silverlight and Expression Studio, but also for presentations such as Lou Carbone’s for instance (who will be back this year by the way).

What I like about this year’s agenda as well is that there will be a bit more presentations and workshops that aren’t all 100% tech, as that was probably my only wish after last year. With people like Steve Ballmer, Lou Carbone, Guy Kawasaki, David Armano and obviously also Hugh MacLeod and Loic Le Meur (and many others) it looks indeed like that is happening. Anyway, a lot of presentations these 3 days so to make sure I don’t miss anything, I’ve fired up the schedule builder on the MIX website to make sure I scheduled everything I wanted to see (and added that to my Outlook which is an option within ‘my schedule’). Small note on the schedule builder, you need to be registered for the event to be able to use it. And unfortunately, if you aren’t registered already, the event is sold out since last week.

MIX08sessions

So if you’re going to MIX as well (and you’re reading this blog) then let me know so we can connect in Vegas (maybe in the Blogzone). I guess that relates immediately to the one big thing I’m missing on the MIX website and that’s the social element. Now I’m not waiting for the next social network, but since I’ve got a login after registration anyway, it would have been nice to be able to use that some more. Who do I know that is going? Which sessions are they going to? It’s like adding a bit of LIFT08 to MIX08 :) That said, it was interesting and fun last year, I’m sure it’ll be so again this year.

PS: Oh yeah, and thanks to David Armano, I now known in Vegas as ‘Two Slice’