Contagious, the communications group that is fast becoming the soothsayer of the advertising world, held its second Now/Next/Why session earlier this week – a conference which serves as a temperature check on the wider comms industry. Bursting with ideas, it sifts through examples of developing new trends from across our connected world. Lots of good stuff presented, but it was the opening talk from Contagious Editorial Director Paul Kemp-Robertson that caught the imagination.
He used his foreword to draw on a recent book he reviewed, ‘Velocity‘ – co-authored by AKQA founder Ajaz Ahmed and Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike, which champions ‘speed, agility, service and optimism’ in the modern business environment. Paul pulls out an important phrase from the preface of the book:
‘Velocity doesn’t care who you are or how good you were yesterday. It’s coming for you anyway. Don’t be a sitting duck. See the big picture. Find the pain points, see patterns taking shape and act. Evolve immediately. Entitlement kills.’
Powerful stuff, but this phrase reminded me of an article I read earlier in the year in the excellent Fast Company magazine entitled ‘This is Generation Flux’ - a look at the pioneers who are leading the charge for business method change in a time when the economy has capsized the traditional means of operating across communications, technology, finance and beyond.
The article is far to broad to go into here, but the gist is that our world is changing at such pace, that new thinking and new ways of working are required – and that those companies that cannot innovate fast enough will stagnate and die.
Now more than ever, this is true of the media environment we work in. We are dealing with a period of complete uncertainty, one in which the old models of communicating with the consumer are defunct. Complete change has prevailed across the media landscape, with events occurring that ordinarily would have been deemed impossible. Who would have thought that the News of the World, the world’s best-selling and most powerful newspaper, would have folded last year? Would anybody have been able to predict that Twitter, with its instantly shareable nature, would have been the pivotal tool used to galvanise millions and spark change during the Arab Spring? And who could have predicted that one female popstar alone could have a direct influence on 22 million people – greater than the population of Australia - who subscribe to her every word?
In a world where the old values and principles no longer apply, the role of a modern PRO has now changed beyond recognition. Communication experts must now be adept at navigating this uncertainty by being part publicist, part planner, part producer. Speed is fast becoming the new currency and many big brands are having to re-wire their communications department in order to keep up with the pace.
As Paul Kemp-Robertson says in his foreword, ‘it’s been fascinating to see big, bulky brands..rip off their marketing straight-jackets and behave with genuine modesty, surprising agility and an open curiosity for crowd culture’
This change is only going to accelerate too. As consumers begin to realise the new potential that technology will bring to communications with brands and with each other, as personal information becomes increasingly monetised and shared, none of the old methods of operating will be sacred and it is within these times of uncertainty and change that Generation Flux can excel.