The Dire Need for Cultural Development Inside of Agencies & Media Companies #AppliedLearning #CulturalLiteracy
Oren Frank wrote an interesting piece this week in AdAge’s Digital Next column on the chasm between consumers and marketing. In sum, Frank touched upon this notion of informational literacy (or illiteracy) as facilitated by technology; he even went so far as to say that “As modern consumers, we have an intuitive and natural ability to integrate and synthesize information, communications and services, and reduce it into a coherent view of the world.”
It seems (once again) we are taking about ourselves – a relatively small percentage of agency and media people – and definitely not “consumers” as we’ve come to know them.
While I like Frank’s line of thinking, I don’t believe that the realities he describes actually exist (I would place myself more in Clay Shirky’s camp and his notion of “filter failure”), and I think the larger point of cultural development was lost in the emphasis on information sharing systems inside of agencies and corporations. Here was my response, starting with the human resource issue:
Fact is, most people are afraid of change, so to say that we (agencies) must invest in people who are "innovators" or who "love change and learning" is a bit of a stretch. For one, what is the incentive for these types of people to join the agency (or the client) ranks? For another, what are we willing to do beyond our roles as managers and executives to make these relationships aspirational?
Providing cultural and economic input and access is essential to seeing a return on the investment in human capital. This goes way beyond reading publication feeds online, or even running workshops and seminars on "change". Not nearly enough is done in the way of engendering heightened thought, particularly around anthropology, media theory and business intelligence, both on the agency and client sides. Further, we are deficient in our cultural literacy by way of narrative, political constructs, art and philosophy.
Take, for example, the notion of brands as publishers, or companies that now own their own media. This is very new territory for everyone in the media business, and this requires a knowledge base well beyond advertising and marketing communications. Content curation relies on unique skill-sets found in things like investigative journalism, filmmaking, sociology, multi-platform production and even applied mathematics. Further, consumers live within complex systems where cultural mores abound and need states reside in places that live beyond brand or product. This is a new world with a ton of white space opportunity, but we are often ill-equipped to support it.
In other words, if we are to succeed as agencies going forward, applied learning in the context of holistic cultural practices is critical.
Technology and information sharing can help solve part of the problem, but until we start empowering agency folks to look at the world differently, it will continue to move right past us. Consumer culture, is of course an integral part of that, but corporate culture (client side) must also be shown that building this kind of intelligence can indeed affect the bottom line and allow brands to grow as thriving businesses, as well as businesses that are relevant in helping to improve the world.
What do you think?