All day conferences can be long, and much like this post, needed to be split into two parts. The lunch break still had some panels. The only one I caught in full was entitled “Brand New Rules”, which had Emily Steel (Wall Street Journal), Doug Jaegar (ADC and The Happy Corp), Paul Taylor (Diageo), Maria Virachnos (Peep Insights) and Paul Worthington (Wolf Olins). It got pretty interesting as they delved into the dynamics of client and agency relationships, with Taylor speaking to the client perspective and Jaegar retorting from the agency one.
The afternoon officially kicked off with the New Idea Agencies panel, which brought together Danielle Sacks (Fast Company), Bart Haney (Fuse), Carl Johnson (Anomaly), and Ben Malbon (BBH Labs)). They got into the pursuit of intellectual property by forward-thinking agencies and the motivations behind this movement to do so. Anomaly was basically founded on this principle of making their own products and services to launch directly to market rather than through their clients. All of the companies in the panel still continue to have traditional client relationships, while pursuing their own creative IP. Carl Johnson really hit a lot of great points. He discussed how they are creating joint ventures to be able to work on everything from licensing, strategy, design and communications. Some of the reasons for this being, “You can’t be fired from a client if you are the client” and “I was sick of the years of sitting in the same meetings that after ten minutes I knew the outcome, but would have to sit in for two hours.”
The New Idea Agencies panel really struck a chord with me, as I’m a huge proponent of traditional agency models evolving their business model this way. It makes sense. We work long hours and make huge personal sacrifices for clients who typically move onto another agency after a campaign or two. Why not replicate the same succes that we make for clients, for ourselves?
This of course comes with challenges. BBH discussed how they had to learn the hard way about the legalities involved in product development, testing and research to put a product to market. All the companies stressed they have lost a ton of money. All though equally expressed how much they enjoyed the ownership to be able to execute or sell the idea, how much better agencies this made them for their traditional client relationships, and maybe put it best by saying “We don’t want to own many things. We’d rather have 40% of a success than 100% of the failure.”
The last couple panels were interesting. I really commend PSFK for putting together such a diverse group of speakers that touch on an array of industries. Edward Felsenthal discussed his work at The Daily Beast, which is actually one of my favorite news aggregators. He was in print journalism for over 20 years and has recently shifted to digital media. Another panel had Scott Heiferman who started Meetup and Avner Ronen from Boxee, discussing open source and open communities.
The conference concluded with Marc and Sara Schiller from the Wooster Collective. If you have never checked out their site before, you must, because the exploration they are doing of art in public space is pretty great. They have archived hundreds of thousands of street art images for pure viewing pleasure.