3 Collaborative Ways the Ad Industry Can Embrace Emerging Tech

Advances like VR are radically changing creative process

The client/agency/vendor model continues to be flipped on its head every day. Case in point: Late last month, Adweek published a story about the uptick in West Coast agencies building out their own virtual reality labs for experimentation.

Jonathan Shipman Headshot: Alex Fine

For companies like my own, which pride ourselves in pioneering emerging VR thought leadership well ahead of traditional agencies, the thought of shops potentially one-upping us should, in theory, chill me to the core. But that's not how I see it, and that way of thinking isn't a viable business model to survive in our industry today.

Team One's experimentation with VR is an effort to be celebrated—for brands, agencies, VR studios, production companies and postproduction houses alike. Why?

Because it's an indicator of the curiosity and empathy required to work together effectively to address the ever-complicated challenges marketers place upon us. Today more than ever, cost-conscious, platform-happy CMOs are placing a premium on efficient content creation—often at the price of great creative work that actually delivers ROI.

So how can we, as an industry, keep effective creative alive while maximizing efficiency, a need that we know is never going away? We must start by throwing away the rule book of the traditional client/agency/vendor model and putting ourselves in our partners' shoes. Holistic, strategic thinking is the only way to rise above the noise of technology and get good work done quickly, but this can't be accomplished unless every party in the marketing network has done its homework and viewed a challenge through a new lens. Experimenting with integrating a foreign capability into the existing framework of your company is an excellent way to gain insight into new ways to solve problems for brands and also provides insight in how to use your partners differently and more effectively.

VR isn't the only area being explored. There's recently been a scramble among big creative agencies like Deutsch and 72andSunny to build up their own production arms to address marketers' needs for real-time micro-content. Holding companies like Omnicom are getting in the game, too, creating production companies that will feed a number of their network agencies' needs.

But agencies, you're not alone in your efforts to understand different perspectives. As emerging tech radically changes the creative process to become more iterative, production companies, design studios and VFX houses are recognizing the value they can bring by taking a consultative seat directly with a brand's C-suite. They're getting to this point by reorganizing how they operate internally to function more like an agency, with the goal of solving a brand challenge top of mind.

Our production company, Framestore Pictures, for example, integrates our directors closely with designers, VFX artists and VR content creators and arms them with seasoned EPs as mentors who can help them better navigate Framestore's offerings to the benefit of the client they're working with.

Thankfully, this new model doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. For those industry players looking to reorganize or expand their capabilities for the first time in order to strike the perfect balance between creativity and efficiency, consider these factors before making your move:

1. Access to talent. Our industry is in constant threat of a brain drain. Prevent that by deciding how you can structure your organization in a way that maximizes employees' access to different ways of thinking within the construct that you already have. Help them to learn the skill sets of other organizations by mimicking their capabilities or collaborative styles. At the same time, be hyper-aware of your own culture and its limitations; don't pretend to be something you're not.

2. Rethink the retained relationship. This takes us directly to the ever-debated status of the agency-of-record model. Everyone knows that the AOR isn't what it used to be. But just because it's different doesn't mean it's dead. Don't be afraid to evolve the traditional notion of the retained relationship and think about how it could spur an efficient output of great work. Perhaps that's an agency and a production company committing to certain types of projects long term and offering joint services when it comes to sitting down with CMOs at the beginning of the creative process.

3. Come up with new revenue streams. Stretch your creative potential to the fullest by imagining how the work you create can become a revenue stream in and of itself. If you're a production company or post house, that might mean using technology in an unusual way to develop a prototype for a brand that can eventually be repurposed for other brands and sold into agencies as a proprietary offering. It's an incentive for the production company to enjoy the creative thrill of developing a piece of IP while strengthening relationships, and it's a win for agencies needing to diversify revenue outside of client fees.

So, West Coast agencies, keep doing what you're doing in VR. We can't wait to see the opportunities you'll soon offer our industry.

This story first appeared in the May 9, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

Click here to subscribe.