Yesterday I was invited along to Curious 01 in London. Any event with ‘curious’ in the title sounds like it might be interesting and this was. Curated by Paul Bay, a group of good & nice people turned up, including John Grant, Neil Perkin, Jon Bains, Alex Bedoya from Hyper Island and many more. Whilst the session covered a number of topics, the conversation centred around the question: what should a brand team look like in future? A subject close to our hearts here at Labs, see related posts here and here. Paul also decided to spice things up by asking a couple of us to ‘bring a provocation’… hard to resist.

There were a ton of good ideas (others) and some a little more loony (mine). For what it’s worth I’m sharing my provocation here because, as always, we’re interested in hearing what others think. A round-up of the rest of the day will be shared soon.

In a nutshell, my provocation began with the question: if clients only pay for the things they can’t do themselves, what does that mean when we work in a real-time, social web world?

A bit of context first.

We’re all familiar with this behaviour now, sure. Its relevance in terms of client-agency ways of working is perhaps even more obvious: ‘baton passing’ doesn’t work. The old linear model where there were distinct lines between client and agency are now blurring:

Many of us may baulk at the idea that ‘Creative’ sits as a shared task… but thinking about brands marketing themselves in a social web context – where the content is often real-time and personal – how many brands are exclusively outsourcing their voice on Facebook and Twitter, say (and/or will continue to do so)?

With all the blurring and collaboration, not to mention the warp speed with which we all need to work, comes a need for agencies to keep an eye on the value and difference they bring. To repeat: Clients pay for the things they cannot do themselves. Add economic pressure to the mix and you cannot help but think that too much duplication is unsustainable.

This led to a proposal of two, deliberately stark alternative models (super extreme to make the point – you get the idea):

There are of course some less disruptive alternatives, more on this below. But considering those two extremes for a second, we ended with the following questions:

Back to the alternatives: of course there are some agency-client relationships that are experimenting with nimble new approaches set up precisely to thrive in a constantly changing, connected world. Apple and TBWA Media Arts Lab are a (well-established) example, our own relationship in BBH NY with Google Creative Lab another. Victors & Spoils, the IdeaLists and more recently Alternative Genius are of course adopting entirely new models.

We’d love to hear what you think on this. What will characterise the brand team of the future? Outsourced, in-house or a perfectly spliced, collaborative client-agency team with complementary yet different skills?


Thanks again to Paul, Belinda and everyone we met on the day. Looking forward to seeing you at Curious 02..