Voice: Intimacy as Opportunity

The headlong race into the digital future has pressed the need to forge a more collaborative culture

There is no doubt that these are the best times to be in the ideas business. This is a time of propelling progress on almost all fronts. We have to invent ourselves not every year but almost every month. The comfort zone is the killing zone, and we have to live and think in constant change mode.

It’s like standing in a wild and raging digital river, one that is dragging everything along with it. The times of a warm, placid lake of traditional media are, thank God, gone forever. How refreshing. Yet, all of this digital, multichannel assault of the senses has left people almost numb. We are often left with no feeling. Nothing.

Bright new technologies are bringing us together as never before. In just one click, we can share our innermost thoughts with a million people. We should feel like gods, but somehow we don’t.

It seems like something has switched on that we can’t switch off. The current of information is endless now. It knows where we work, and it follows us home. It attacks our time, our attention and our senses, and the more it continues, the more desensitized we become.

The big question is: In a world in which digital noise is so loud that it has made us unfeeling, how can we regain intimacy? What can we as an agency, a business or brand do to make ourselves matter again? The mission is to create humanly relevant ideas. If you cannot feel the idea, the idea is not good. It’s that simple.

Consumers and business decision makers are independently minded, highly connected, always emotional human beings. They are making purchase decisions at all times. There are no boundaries between work and leisure. It’s now just life. Work goes home and home to work. That means that our communications must evolve, become more emotional, more inspirational and more humanly relevant. They must ignite emotions no matter what the setting.

The idea has to drive everything, not the execution. That is the goal in this ever-changing, post-privacy, digital world.

So why did this crucial intimacy between brands and people fall through the cracks in the ideas business? One reason is that, in response to the new multichannel world, we created a forced orchestration of isolated touch points. We named it integration.

Without knowing, we still were living in an executional dictatorship. We formed a creative apartheid where we continued to push our traditional channel executions (TV and print) down the pipeline of the new, fresh media disciplines and emerging technologies.

We asked all our partners to adapt: PR, digital mobile, activation and media. The goal was to be seamless in every touch point instead of letting each discipline evolve and shine in its own creative light.

Instead of creating expansive ideas, we created a boring, irrelevant but seamless wallpaper propelled by an execution. But no consumer ever said, “I love how the poster is just like the website.”

The solution is to destroy this creative apartheid. The Bauhaus movement showed us that greatness comes from true collaboration and the friction of eclectic minds. The collective of poets, architects and painters were able to create something as humanly relevant as a chair and directly influence the first functional glass skyscrapers that still grace Chicago’s skyline.

We need to create a more inclusive culture on both the client and the creative side, one that allows for eclecticism—a collective of influencers, curators, editors, thinkers, inventors and producers.

We know ideas can take any form. Igniting human emotions takes more than just a concept and a media plan. So the more kinds of talent and experience we can bring to the challenge, irrespective of job title and department, the more kinds of creative opportunities we will see.

Emotion is key to intimacy. It is there in every choice we make, whether we’re buying laptops or signing multimillion-dollar contracts. Finding this intimacy, making people feel, igniting action, is more difficult and precious than ever before. It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

Intimacy is the new gold. We have to regain the intimacy among businesses, brands and people. Only then will we be relevant again.