I was fascinated to read about the Society of Digital Agencies in a recent Adweek. Founded by BBH, the ''society' is a collection of 30 worldwide 'competitors' who get together to talk about how they could collaborate and innovate together in an effort to not only reinvent the future but, as Edward Boches, chief creative officer of Mullen put it, 'blow up the now.'
Some of the proposed outcomes of this remarkable collaboration include:
– funding an organization the group called a cloud. Instead of working for one digital agency, a person would work for the cloud, take on assignments from the 30 agencies and capture collective best practices that would, in turn, be fed back to the group.
– adopt a start-up in exchange for equity so the group could agree on best practices for how digital can establish, launch and build a brand.
– there were lots of other ideas, but no other game-changers, according to Boches.
We helped create something similar to the society by partnering with like-minded midsized PR firms such as CRT/Tanaka, PSB and Dix & Eaton. We call it the Lumin Collaborative. It's been in place for five or so years and has evolved into an internal management development program in which we share best practices for everything from social media and crisis to sales and IR. I don't think it's revolutionized anyone's go-to-market strategy, but it has made us better firms.
A PR version of the Society of Digital Agencies is exactly what our industry needs right now. But, it will never happen because there's far too much internecine warfare with agencies poaching talent and clients from one another. The big PR firms in particular are so driven to generate profits for their holding company owners that the mere suggestion of collaborating with another competitor would likely make a WPP-owned CEO gag.
And, that's a shame. Because while the PR industry collectively fiddles, Rome burns. And, while Rome burns, the digital agencies are not only helping one another to extinguish the flames but also how to build something new and even better.
For all of his faults, Jack O'Dwyer has been spot-on about one observation: the PR industry lacks leadership. We don't have a BBH or Mullen who is willing to lead by example, call together our best minds and figure out, as Boches says, how to reinvent the future and blow up the now. Since our individual leaders won't do it, maybe The Council of PR Firms could step into the breach? Just a thought, Kathy.