Cul­ture shock

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS -

scar Wilde said: “Be your­self, ev­ery­one else is al­ready taken.”

On one of my train jour­neys home last week, I was sup­posed to be think­ing about the con­tent of this ar­ti­cle. But I got side­tracked by peo­ple watch­ing. A bunch of 17-year-old mates in the car­riage were just hang­ing out with each other. It should have been easy, en­joy­able. But it was the op­po­site. No-one re­ally seemed them­selves. No-one seemed nat­u­ral. Ev­ery­one was putting on a per­sona, try­ing to im­press and get no­ticed. It was ex­haust­ing to watch.

And it is ex­haust­ing. The process of be­com­ing your­self is a time-con­sum­ing one and, at times, a real headache. The same is true when es­tab­lish­ing the iden­tity, per­son­al­ity and cul­ture of your agency. We’ve re­cently re­viewed ours at Lida and it in­volved a pe­riod of re­ally in­tense hard work.

But the process of es­tab­lish­ing who you are as an agency is more im­por­tant now than ever. Why?

First, we’ve got to keep the play­ing field fresh. It’s tough, be­cause all agen­cies are be­ing asked sim­i­lar ques­tions by clients – and are an­swer­ing them us­ing vir­tu­ally the same tools and method­olo­gies.

Cloning each other is go­ing to kill the vi­brancy of Agen­cy­land. But if each agency de­vel­ops its own unique cul­ture, we’ll breed di­ver­sity in our own lit­tle mi­cro­cosm and that could help keep the in­dus­try vi­brant and in­ter­est­ing.

Sec­ond, a re­ally strong per­son­al­ity and cul­ture pro­vides a strong foun­da­tion for the peo­ple work­ing within it. At work, at home, wher­ever, a strong foun­da­tion al­lows peo­ple to find their great­ness.

Third is the most im­por­tant point. The mul­ti­tude of chan­nels, the com­plex­ity of data, the de­sire for gen­uinely use­ful cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences mean that when briefs come in, they’re an­swered by a shed­load of peo­ple. Un­less there’s a uni­fy­ing cul­ture, work­ing to­gether be­comes a big headache.

While hav­ing a uni­fy­ing cul­ture sounds sim­ple, it means a mil­lion things and has to pen­e­trate a mil­lion places. A real cul­ture in­flu­ences ev­ery as­pect of your busi­ness – top to bot­tom, in­side and out. And that’s tough be­cause it has to be grown and nur­tured, it has to evolve with the team and can’t be plucked off a shelf along with the lat­est piece of hard­ware.

Apart from com­ing up with the best cre­ative ideas (big and small), cul­ture is the most im­por­tant thing we need to es­tab­lish, to ar­tic­u­late, to live and die by. Be­cause cul­ture gal­vanises peo­ple, it in­flu­ences at­ti­tudes, builds be­lief and drives in­no­va­tion. Think about it: any dif­fer­ence in cul­ture, wher­ever you find it, fos­ters unique think­ing, ex­cit­ing dif­fer­ences, ten­sions and cre­ativ­ity.

Try be­ing as in­no­va­tive in tech as you can with­out a cul­ture that re­spects where in­no­va­tion can take you and you will soon see the im­por­tance of cul­ture. Try de­liv­er­ing against a re­ally com­plex comms cam­paign (when you’re stretched to the gills with the time and re­source avail­able) and you’ll see the ben­e­fit of work­ing with like-minded teams whose shared ob­jec­tive and MO is to de­liver a bru­tally sim­ple re­sult.

We’re not sug­gest­ing peo­ple drink the Kool-Aid. In­stead, we need and want in­de­pen­dent thinkers who can sync to­gether in a com­mon cul­ture to work to­gether and make a dif­fer­ence.

I started with a bit of Wilde, so will end with him too: “‘Know Thy­self’ was writ­ten over the por­tal of the an­tique world. Over the por­tal of the new world, ‘Be Thy­self’ shall be writ­ten.”

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