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Tuesday, September 26

The 'Soviet Union Model' of Agencies

Read a small note on Gary Hamel( the strategy guru who wrote 'Competing for the Future' among other books-do read the book if you haven't already!) in today's TOI where he talks about the Soviet Union model of Innovation - completely top-down, central command, and so on!

The article then talks about the contrasting 'innovation model of silicon valley' - a hot-bed of bottom-up innovations! Google, a bottom-up-driven-organisation for example is organised into 300 teams working on a variety of projects.

There's much to learn from the Silicon valley model for an ad agency. The rants in no particular order.

1. Most Agencies follow an 'innovation/ creativity apartheid'. Only the creatives are allowed to participate in the 'actual' creative process. Okay occassional sops are thrown where non-creatives participate in 'brain-storming'and other niche sports but then when it comes to the 'big-ideas-game', its a NO ENTRY sign for the rest of the agency.

2. Most agancies spend less than 1% of their annual time(am talking about company time, not individual time) on thinking about the business. Improvements in the creative process/ model. The changing media landscape. Fringe studies. Fringe imports. Self funded knowledge/ skill upgradation projects.

3. Silicon valley thrives on collaboration. Apartheid needs segregation! Again many agencies pay lip-service to collaboration. The creative egos generally are too huge for most team endeavours!

4. The smart young guys( brimming with new ideas and creative energy) from account management are mostly handed out low-end jobs and 'follow up' tasks. The bulk of their time is spent in covering up the inefficiencies of the people, systems or the 'Soviet Union Model' of creative management. Little wonder that these smart, young guys are moving in droves away from the 'Soviet Agencies' to the 'Silicon Valleys of 'retail', 'new media' or 'new technology'.

The agency's unwillingness to look hard at it's Soviet Model reminds me of a Chinese Proverb - "If we do not change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed." :-)


Dharmendra said...

Very well written.

And have you ever noticed that idea originated on this side of the border never sees light of day.

A bit hard to digest that there exists no brain power on this side of the border.

And the best part is that these dudes themeselves dont know where they are headed for but seem to know very well about the incapability of others.

My observation has been that walls are built around due to unwillingness to face challenges head on. What say?

Unfortunately as you have aptly said instead of planning to create the planners had to create to plan.

And thank god for new businesses which saw the potential in people and gave them the due respect.

Sad but true Agencies are losing out on invaluable contribution from most of their people due to the Soviet Union syndrome.

Manish said...

further to my mail...you know everyday I keep discovering latent, un-utilised talent in the account management rank and file!

It's a pity that so much of creative energy is going waste while there is a seeming shortage of talent in the industry.

meraj said...

a sort of creative cartel has been built and this limits the number and quality of fresh ideas.

this has happened primarily because traditionally ad agencies meant creative output and who was responsible for that...the creative folks...rest were just glorified peons (except the top management). but times are changing and things will have to change...

am so much with you on the talent in the 20 somethings, running up to the studio, waiting late-nights for that small tactical ad.