This article was originally posted here.
As we come to the beginning of another year of tumultuous change in the communications industry and begin a new round of awards, it is an interesting time to reflect. In 2016 across the creative industry we have seen those agencies that have changed and continue to change ‘winning’ and those that have not adapted quickly enough struggling to find their place.
In whispered conversations we hear of the challenges the PR industry faces; finding ourselves ‘in the ring’ with new competitors, a new kind of client, the fight for talent and a changing cultural value system. On a macro level in 2017 we see new holding companies continue to be developed by the consulting groups and hear talk of them threatening the domination of the big six marketing and communication groups. While we might view these developments as threat, I believe that, to the contrary, these disruptions in the industry landscape create new opportunities for those that embrace them.
While we might have new competition we can now compete for a new kind of work. While we face more challenging clients this gives us the chance to learn from the most successful companies in the world. Competing for new talent means we need to reinvent and re imagine our own culture and a changing cultural value systems means we must decide what we stand for… it is no longer good enough to be everyone and no one.
For H+K, 2016 has been the year that we have seen our own reinvention come of age. We are an agency with 90 years of public relations heritage and 87 offices around the world – something of a tanker when it comes to changing course. It started in 2015 when we reinvented the London agency as the Global Center of Creative Strategy for the network. London has gone on to spearhead our journey of change and this year has seen us win and deliver traditional 60 second ads, OOH campaigns, integrated campaigns, new AI interfaces, C-suite consultancy and well as design brand eco-systems, events and identities for clients. All this on top of the more traditional services associated with public relations. In addition to developing new types of creative skills, we have asked the hard questions of ourselves; why we do what we do? What is the purpose of our agency? What do we believe in? Part of this process has led us beginning the journey towards a B Corp accreditation, not because it is a business imperative but because it is the right thing to do.
As the Chief Creative Officer I describe and aspire for our agency to be a ‘the place to write your own story’; this applies equally well for our clients and brands as well as our teams. By encouraging an always beta, entrepreneurial culture we have seen new products and services being developed and launched including a behavioral insights unit and a suite of new creative services. In 2017, a focused client-centric approach will see us open new innovation and creative hubs in key strategic locations around the world, presenting new cultural experiences and career opportunities for our teams. Sadly, this year we did have someone poached from our agency but it was by Snapchat so we have taken that as indication that we are doing something right!
Against this industry backdrop the awards season begins again and the inevitable debates will start again. What is PR? What is the value of awards and who should be allowed to enter what category? As the Foreman of the PR Jury at D&AD Professional Awards 2017 I am looking forward to leaving some of those debates behind and focusing all of our efforts on looking for the most original ideas, beautifully executed and revealing and celebrating a passion for the creative craft.
The acceptance of PR into the D&AD Professional Awards last year is reflective of the journey that the PR industry has been on. Starting my career as an architect, then working in integrated communications before joining a PR agency that values not only the idea, but also the craft of execution, is close to my heart. In my architectural career we debated whether paper architecture was real architecture… my view was always that architecture need to be experienced to be real architecture therefore the skill and craft of execution was key. It was not enough to purely talk about an idea it had to be experienced. Through that experience the skill of the execution becomes an important part of that. As the PR agencies broaden the scope of the campaigns we undertake, our work must be compared to the best in the world not just according to the originality of the ideas and the effectiveness of the program, but also the passion for the craft of delivery. The best in the world now includes advertising, digital, design and other PR agencies as well as Netflix, Google and Amazon, all of whom compete for the attention of our audiences.
D&AD is special. While each of the awards have their own bias; the Cannes Lions is arguable focused on the idea, the Effies on effectiveness and the Webbies celebrate how an idea is scaled, D&AD allows us to put special focus of the craft and skills of delivery. In 2017 we will be focusing on embodying the spirit of this and ensuring that we only celebrate the highest level of creative achievement – for me that is a unique combination of the idea and the craft.
If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Professional Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.