Change is the thing, size matters, JV, and other futile debates

2003. This was the last time I worked at OMD. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no You Tube. Phones weren’t smart. I didn’t even own a mobile phone. Don’t think I knew anyone with an ipod. Can’t recall what I did with half my life. The dial-up internet at home was so slow you could go downstairs and make super-gluten toast whilst your Ask Jeeves search results for Sars Virus Symptoms loaded. And JV worked here.

For me anyway, working in a large media agency was getting a bit dull by 2003. The initial excitement from a few years earlier when, in the case of OMD, Clemenger and DDB had emancipated all their media people to go forth and multiply, had faded considerably. Sure, the internet was still a new medium and there were plenty of murmurings that suggested interesting things might be on the horizon. There was still only a handful of people in the agency that were ‘digital’ and their scope didn’t go far beyond banners. OOH had innovated quite a bit, and there was always some shitty new ambient thing to annoy punters with. Media choices still weren’t fundamentally different to what they’d been for decades previously.

2014. Back at OMD. Google have charitably taken out two floors in the Fairfax building, Facebook are a global top 20 company valued at over $190b, and I’m still laughing at how much money Rupert Murdoch lost on MySpace. Everything has changed. Except JV is still here.

The media agency world is exciting. No doubt about it.

Holy cow, this place is big. It’s 3-4 times the size it was when I left. The depth of expertise and knowledge is astounding. It’s not like I’ve been away backpacking or running a car wash, or something weird, for the past 11 years. But it’s incredible how much a place can change, yet still be the same place.

Comparably, creative agencies (where I’ve been) have added lots of new ‘doers’ in areas like digital production, community management and creative technology, but have hardly added any new ‘thinkers’, unlike a media agency such as OMD. We’ve got an abundance of thinkers grounded in the real world – in areas like search, insights, econometrics, social, content, data-driven performance, and channel verticals. I no longer feel like I’m stuck in an interminable webisode of Bondi Hipsters.

And don’t even get me started about the insane number of research tools, and access to rapidly growing, and compelling, data. My head may eventually explode. Especially compared to years I had of just Googling, stealing, or making it up.

It is exciting to be in a place that feels like it is so well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities on offer in the modern marcomms landscape where the lines are blurring at a dramatically increasing rate. I struggle to conceive how a creative agency, a media owner, a brand owner, a specialist agency, or anyone else, could be better positioned to navigate the complexities now involved in connecting people with brands.

I suspect the only thing that can stop us is ourselves, and our possible lack of cohesion in how we look to solve problems, and tell that story. More about that another time, perhaps.

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