01 June 2010

The Race to the Middle

Today we had ample opportunity to think about the Race to the Middle, which is Forrester Research's description of how traditional ad agencies are building digital/data capabilities, while digital agencies are building brand/strategic capabilities. Both parties seek the territory and clients of the other.

Winning the Race to the Middle

There will be many winners of the Race to the Middle, from both sides. They all will share some common characteristics, chief among them a willingness to break out of their comfort zones.

One giant leap

A large group of my colleagues got out of their comfort zones today simply by attending an agency-sponsored, daylong digital immersion, including a presentation by a Forrester executive. Although Forrester has cited our agency for its digital prowess, not everyone has the same level of learning, experience and capability. Most of the audience got out of their comfort zones simply by their willingness to learn.

There's no need to wait for someone to train you, however. We all must take a DIY approach.

One small step

For example: This morning there was an article on AdAge.com by an anonymous creative director at a big ad agency who went to his first digital creative awards show. It was a sincere reflection on what was obviously a new frontier for him. Still, you could be forgiven for thinking: Did this guy just wake up after 20 years?

Indeed, this sentiment showed up in the article's comments section. It seemed tragic that a creative director could be turning his attention to digital for the first time.

The bigger tragedy, however, would be if he stopped after one awards show. I wanted to track him down and exhort him, in Churchill's words, to "keep buggering on".

Keep buggering on

Our business isn't made of bricks or clicks, but of people. Agencies who win the Race to the Middle will owe their victories to individual employees who get out of their comfort zones and add to their personal skill sets. Find your own ways to participate and learn by doing. If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments section below.

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