06 September 2007


Spending the last few months "unemployed" has enabled me to regain some lost perspective. When you work full-time within a single company, you end up with a narrowed point of view. That, sadly, is inevitable. Of course, one of the nice things about working in a services business (and the main reason that I continue to be attracted to this industry) is that you get "vicarious perspective" as a result of working with clients. As a result, the narrowing is less extreme (and instead takes the form of "distortion".

While I've technically been "unemployed" - I've spent a fair amount of time doing independent consulting, and a fair amount of time looking for my next job. This combination has enabled me to notice some things that I'm going to try and keep hold of (and will try to communicate here as well).

1 - Strategy is a more dangerous and loaded word than Attractive. Everyone knows what Strategy means. Unfortunately for those of us who make our livings performing Strategy related services... everyone's definition of Strategy is different. This combination of confidence in your understanding and wild divergence of this understanding makes our jobs really, really difficult. For some people I've talked to, Strategy is Tactics (or more accurately Tactical Planning). For others it's Account Planning. For some it's anything they deem "Strategic" to the business. And the list goes on. As a result, I've had people ask me to do a "Strategy Consulting Project" with a two day timeline. I've had a ton of people ask me why they would ever need to hire a Strategy Consultant -- and almost all of them have financial and metrics goals with no objectives behind them and no plan for how to achieve them around them. Everyone out there is an expert in Strategy... and that makes trying to make a living by delivering well-founded, feasible and intelligent strategic direction very, very hard.

2 - Interactive is valuable. Valuable is scary. Therefore Interactive is scary. I've spent a lot of time talking with execs at advertising and marketing firms and their parent holding companies. They all are (now) aware that they cannot ignore the interactive space. They're in a panic and are desperate to be seen as reacting to this new threat/opportunity. But they're very, very uncomfortable with the people with the expertise. We're a threat within the organization - we represent a threat to the organization. An enormous amount of time is spent in these conversations to make it clear that we are weird and different. The more like them we try to behave, the more conflicted they become.

3 - Words have Power. While the truth is that Marketing is Marketing and Design is Design and Talent is Talent and Clients are Clients... there actually are some differences between the old school firms and the new school (read "Interactive") firms. These are largely cultural and demographic in nature. But there is an artifact of this cultural and demographic difference that makes things very challenging when it comes to bridging the gap between the two schools. Words. The language spoken by people within these two camps is fundamentally different. I actually spent a little while doing a consulting gig where I, in essence, served as a translator between folks in management of an interactive group and folks in management of their parent traditional ad firm. They each thought there were irreconcilable differences between the companies - and in the end it turned out they both wanted the same thing... but were expressing it in different ways. In fact, they were each expressing the same goal using language that truly terrified the other. If, in the end, we're going to see integration of the two camps into a "future offering" then we need to develop a common shared language and understanding. This is going to be vital.

4 - Interactive Firms are not Practical enough. The vast majority of Interactive Firms are still either Idealistic or Cynical. Mature agencies are, as a general rule, far far more pragmatic. Until Interactive Firms become more practical - we will continue to be treated as strange children from Lord of the Flies.

Oh... and on a personal note, I'll probably be making a move to another full time job in the next month. I've talked to a lot of folks and I'm starting to narrow the field. There are some good opportunities out there. Consulting is fun and all... but it's rather lonely. More as things come to fruition.


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