Scott Goodson – Change The Model, Change The World

Scott Goodson, CEO + Founder, StrawberryFrog
NY Times January 1st 2020, the headlines.




Sound too good to be true?

Oh here’s two more from the industry trade magazine Ad Age:




Well, here is my view of the future and…what I believe it will hold. Not only do I think that this represents a realistic view of where our industry could be in 2020 – I think that our being there today could actually have a bearing on the 2020 world news headlines I’ve put up.

Let me explain why.

The future holds the new agency model, the new client model, and the new world model. What do I see as the new agency model of the future and how will that align with a new client model? And ultimately…how will both have the ability to feed into and help drive what I would call – a new world model. Let’s start with the new agency model.

Are these too good to be true too?

The agency of the future must do three things: It must have a new ideas culture, a new value culture…and a new talent culture. The agency model of the future is built around the value of ideas. You might say there’s nothing new about this point. Our industry talks a lot about ideas.

But at the same time, we have allowed the emphasis, the value, and the fundamental business model of our industry today, to shift away from ideas and to focus predominantly on execution.

A lot of lip service is paid to the value of ideas, but agencies are often primarily regarded as executioners and, in that regard, purely as suppliers. In the future, suppliers will be valued less and less and squeezed more and more. It is idea generators who will be most valued – because “ideaspeople” create the greatest value, across every industry sector, not just our own.

So the new agency model has to move the value of our industry away from execution and back to ideas. Firstly, by demonstrating and standing up for the value of ideas. And secondly, by outsourcing execution.

Now, by outsourcing execution, I don’t mean for a moment giving up responsibility for execution. It is very important that we steward the process – and we do this flawlessly for some of the biggest advertisers in the world – but less important that we feel we must execute everything, and be able to provide a full range of execution services “in-house”.

The pressure on agencies, often self-inflicted to be able to claim ‘We do absolutely everything’, is entirely counter-productive to fostering a culture that focuses on and celebrates the value of ideas.

Interestingly, outsourcing execution not only re-emphasizes the value of ideas; it also re-emphasizes the value of specialist executioners. Idea creators and idea implementers are both key.

At the implementation end, the opportunity to be the Fedex of the execution marketplace is an exceptionally valuable one in its own right – when it absolutely, positively has to be produced overnight, or in some other very tight timeframe.

And there are some interesting developments in this area.

Here is another, very different, approach to delivering great, effective advertising that focuses on the value of ideas.

OpenAd is an online network of registered creatives which calls itself ‘the world’s biggest creative department’. OpenAd offers you the opportunity to ‘buy advertising ideas for your company from over 7,000 creatives worldwide – faster, better, cheaper.’ The interesting thing about OpenAd….as opposed to sites like Spotrunner and LiveWorld which enable you to customize, plan and place TV/video advertising… that OpenAd focuses purely and simply on ideas. It is left to the clients and creatives responsible for the idea that has been purchased, to determine how it is executed.

Whatever one might think about OpenAd’s approach – and I for one have some personal reservations about creating an off-the-shelf mentality, and devaluing all the other thinking that goes into the creative process, like Cultural understanding, they are at least, as we all should be, saying that ideas are what matter, and separating those out from execution in terms of value.

On the other hand, here’s a company that’s building a rapidly growing and successful business around guaranteeing quality of execution – and, quite frankly, guaranteeing execution full stop. Meet the “The Department of Doing”, which is based in New Zealand….but, which works with clients all over the world.

The Department of Doing, essentially, does. They state their mission as, ‘Whatever needs doing, we bring ideas to life.’

They say they started their company because:

‘A GREAT idea that fails to happen can be an absolute tragedy….In fact, ideas that go unrealized may just be the biggest cost in business…We think there’s nothing worse than a wasted idea or a brilliant plan that was never executed. These things need Doing.’

So they’ve built a business around doing stuff. And interestingly, they work with a number of agencies, including Lowe, Leo Burnett, Saatchi, McCann, Ogilvy and Grey.

Two separate businesses looking to secure their positions within the future of our industry via innovative ways of delivering, on the one hand, ideas, and on the other, execution.

Isn’t it time we pulled the two things apart and determined what we’re really good at and what we want to be rewarded for?

Which brings me to my next point. Great ideas create value. And ideas that create value command a premium price. Or, they should do. So the second component of the new agency model is a new value culture, grounded in a new business model that sees agencies partnering with clients to generate real, tangible business value, and being compensated accordingly.

How can we do this? By demonstrating that the ideas we deliver are not superficial communication add-ons, but genuinely integrated into the way the client does business. So that agencies that deliver value become a key part of the client’s business culture.

Again, this requires movement away from an old business model that places too much emphasis on execution….and compensates based on how much time it takes to do stuff, as opposed to how valuable and effective ideas are.

But the new business model requires a rethink of ideas as products – in other words, generating ideas that can be turned into actual products, and revenue streams that derive from the sale of these products.

What is worth noting is how the highest levels of the client’s business are seeing this as a smart way for them to offset development costs for product development and work with innovative agencies that are much broader than the archetype agency.

In our industry, we talk a lot about innovation. Well, innovation is important because it’s a way to make money. And innovation for agencies only works when you can make a living out of it. The new agency model demands that we develop a new value culture, live by it and prove that it works where it needs to most – the bottom line.

And finally, the third component: I believe that the new agency model demands a new talent culture, with idea generators valued at all levels across all disciplines, but ultimately working together in a way that means that the agency of the future will be structured differently and staffed differently, and agency organ-o-grams will look very different to the traditional hierarchies still operating today.

We’ve already seen how the necessary fusion of “strategic-planning-and-media-skills” have given rise to communications planners, experience planners, channel planners.

We’re already seeing multifaceted individual creatives and designers breaking out of the art director/copywriter team mold.

At StrawberryFrog our creative teams have always included everyone, because we believe an idea can come from anyone.

Our teams consist of a digital creative, a writer, art director, creative technologist, a designer, a business mind, a culturalogist, a PR mind, etc…

Here is a thought for the future: as we create a new talent culture that celebrates individual talent, attitude and responsibility over outdated job titles, why not give clients the opportunity to put ‘dream teams’ of cherry-picked talent together to work on their business and generate the best ideas out of a revolutionary inter-agency dynamic.

If a client decides, I don’t want an agency, I just want that particular team, made up top talent across these areas – why wouldn’t we agree to collaborate on shared business with shared reward?

Finding whole new cross-agency dynamics to inspire and energize exceptional thinking and ideas? We could do that today to come up with the best advertising ever to raise money for Cancer and AIDS research and rid the world of them.

Ideas, value, talent: the three components of the new agency model. But importantly, when you put those three things together, what you have is a more engaged, involved, meaningful culture overall – which leads to more involved, more meaningful client relationships; and more involved, more meaningful output.

Which is, I believe, exactly what the clients of the future are looking for. Here’s a thought about, if you like, a new client model. When it comes to the future of marketing, I see a new business culture developing centerd around the whole concept of culture itself.

Because fundamentally the Culture Economy is all about the broad social and cultural context of a brand. It’s about relevance and true interactivity, not the old paid TV advertising model.

In the context of the culture economy, I believe the future holds a new business culture revolving around, again, the value of ideas.

Our commitment as agencies to deliver ideas that have the power to reshape business is reflected in our clients’ commitment to exactly the same thing. We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the beleaguered chief marketing officer – in the job an average of twenty-three-point-two months, according to Spencer Stuart’s study on the subject, and under more pressure to deliver across a vast array of fronts than ever before.

Well, I believe that a new client model which sees ideas coming out of the marketing and communications interface that redefine the course of the business, will see CMOs revalued as they should be traded like MVPs.

Just as agencies will restructure themselves based on new talent valuation, so will client teams – they already are. The new marketing all-stars are intellectual, strategic, creative people who embrace the “new interactive consumer culture” and the ideas that embed their products within it. Because the ideas aren’t coming just from agencies and clients…….. They’re coming from consumers. There’s been a lot of talk about user-generated content. And…my prediction for the future is the rise of user generated products.

As our-and-our clients’ business becomes redefined by the true meaning of ‘interactive’, the new client model actively welcomes and integrates an ongoing channeling of consumer input. We decided to leverage this trend back in the summer of 2006, when Microsoft asked us to spark a national cultural movement for it’s small business software.

You might consider ‘involved’ and ‘meaningful’ slightly odd words with which to describe businesses. I consider them crucial. Because, I honestly believe, that taking the direction I have outlined above, via the new agency model and the new client model…moves all of us closer to the BIG one – the new world model. What do I mean by this? Commercial enterprises are in the best place to use creativity to tackle ‘the bigger issues’.

Because everything I have talked about today represents, in microcosm, exactly what our world needs now. At a much broader level, great ideas are aimed at connecting people who make decisions with the people who are affected by those decisions.

Universal connectivity and social media can equate to greater understanding, social change, AND betterment of life. Ideas can generate social value. Cultural connection is a concept that goes way beyond the day to day work we do in our industry – all the way to how all of us can and should try to change the world for the better. Every client I work with, I try to make the world better through them. That might sound like high-minded idealism but it translates into sound business sense – because it makes that cultural connection and spreads ideas that have the power to change the world. Take our client Mega Brands, for example. Parents feel the magical imagination of childhood is under threat. Free playtime is shrinking as childrens’ lives are increasingly overscheduled and over structured. Since 1980, unstructured children’s activities have declined by 50%. At the same time, children are filling their remaining free time with overly High-Tech toys and mind numbing video games which parents feel are making their children grow up too fast. Unstructured free play….the kind of play where children use their own imagination with toys to play and create, is crucial to building a child’s self expression and creativity. If this situation continues, we may have to imagine a future generation devoid of creativity. MEGA promotes children’s creativity and champions the power of creativity in the fight against time-sucking video games and other non-creative pursuits. Because we believe that creativity can make the world a better place.

As you can see for yourself, a Cultural Movement is much bigger than just an ad campaign. Because it’s about relevance. But where will they come from? Representative bodies, such as democracies and the UN, can’t have new ideas. First, because there’s a contradiction between representing current thinking and a new idea which, by definition, isn’t current thinking.

And second, for the simple reason that new ideas are high risk for the members of these organizations.’So the World Council for New Thinking has been set up to ‘encourage, generate, collect, publish and publicize new ideas in any field.’

They provide some examples of new thinking. For example, ‘The one child policy in China has resulted in a deficit of one hundred million women. A different ‘one boy’ policy would have saved millions of lives, and provided a balanced and declining population.’ Or one I suspect we can all relate to: ‘There is a need for a positive word to describe ‘a fully justified venture which for reasons beyond your control did not succeed.’ The available words such as ‘failure’ and ‘mistake’ are unfair.

What I find interesting about this is the emphasis placed on ideas as what the world needs. What better source of ideas of any kind than the industry represented by everyone in this room? The new world model is about ideas contributed by everyone, whomever or wherever they may be, to address and resolve the issues that concern and impact on all of us, be they social, societal, environmental,genocidal…whatever! Ideas that all of us bring to life.

What better way to contribute to a new world model, than by ensuring that the power of ideas can be channeled, harnessed and endorsed by the involvement of businesses.

Businesses who have a responsibility to contribute ideas that will enable them to operate as productive, profitable, socially responsible entities? And what better way, than to use what we DO,to develop ideas in a way that always ensures that we are defining or redefining culture in a social and business context, that in however small a way we are doing it, we are doing together with our clients, to benefit the community, society and the world?

Let’s go back to those headlines I put up right at the very beginning from early January 2020. I believe, based on the future I envisage……that these are entirely possible.

And if we all work together to generate ideas that create more involved, more meaningful cultural connections, which drive business decisions that create more involved meaningful consumer relationships which feed back into companies as a virtual circle of interactivity that can leverage the company’s position to identify and effect relevant…social, environmental, world change – well who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

That’s why I say to you, however grandiose it may sound, my take on the future of our industry is change the model, change the world. We don’t have a choice.