A few years back Murat Mutlu wrote a post that got a lot of conversation going around whether an agency could build the next Instagram or Angry Birds. His post raised some interesting questions around what capabilities modern agencies should have and whether they should be messing around with digital products at all or just sticking rigidly to advertising.
Adam Glickman wrote a piece on FastCompany that Murat quoted from in his post, suggesting that ad agencies should act more like tech start-ups:
'Startups and agencies alike always ask themselves, “What is the problem we’re solving?” If agencies want to think more like tech startups, they might focus less on clever storytelling and more on utility.'
And then we have John Willshire's mantra that making things people want trumps making people want things. Or as Russell Davies puts it: 'usability trumps persuasion'. One of the issues here, as Glickman said in his article, is that the two come from a different place: 'Tech startups begin with the big idea, then seek to monetize...Agencies start with a budget, then seek the big idea.'
Yet, as products and services are increasingly digitised and marketing baked-in, perhaps there is a greater opportunity at the intersection of product development and marketing processes and metrics, a harmony between vision and validation, as Andy Whitlock put it. So should agencies re-model themselves to drive genuine innovation through a product, as well as a marketing, perspective? What can and should planners learn from digital product development processes? And should agencies be producing their own start-ups and products either for their own benefit or as solutions?
These are some of the questions we'll be addressing in our next Google Firestarters event, which is on 17th September, 6.15pm at Google HQ, London. To help us navigate them we have three excellent provocations from Andy Whitlock (Digital Product & Service Innovation lead at MadebyMany), Brett MacFarlane of ustwo (who made the fabulous Monument Valley), and Adam Arnold (Managing Partner at BBH Zag). As always I have some guest passes to give away to readers of this blog so if you'd like one leave a comment below or drop me a line.