If you’re anything like me, you will groan inwardly each time you are subject to another presentation boldly describing “the fastest pace of technological change in our planet’s history”. This message has been delivered countless times for the best part of this century, and left unscrutinised, has been known to whip those of us working in the communications industry into a state of near panic. The very real fear of running to stand still and never knowing enough, particularly in the digital space, has been known to drive many from agency life to the relative calm of a job as a professional dog walker or children’s entertainer.
I exaggerate to make a point of course, but we are in danger of believing our own hype. The reality is:
- No-one can be expected to know everything.
- Consumer interaction with technology is based on a handful of fundamental human truths, as in all things.
- The man on the street doesn’t think of digital as something separate, special or different, so neither should we agency folk.
These realities were forefront in the minds of the organisers of OMD Squared – a recent two day training workshop hosted by our friends at Google for a team of senior Directors at OMD UK. This training borrowed from the ‘learning by doing’ methodology of the established Google Squared training programme usually reserved for relative newcomers to our industry. We were lucky enough to be the first London agency to have an advanced workshop designed from scratch, bespoke to us, for, let’s just say, the more experienced members of the agency!
At its heart, the premise of OMD Squared was to help us become more confident and conversant in the digital media world, allowing us to think and talk in a naturally integrated way. Google were looking to dispel many of the digital myths that we have grown up with, and help us view the world through a more entrepreneurial lens.
So if that was the theory behind OMD Squared, what was the practice?
We were in the capable hands of Sarah Tate (Programme Lead Squared) and Daniel Solomons (Agency Planning) for the duration, who led us ably through the brilliantly practical programme, kicking off with some context-setting by Google’s charismatic Managing Director, Dan Cobley (dressed as an elf!). He shared with us some of the big trends that form the backdrop to many of the strategic decisions that Google make, whether it be the universality of digital consumption, regardless of age, or the always on, always connected lives of people today.
What followed were a series of team-based exercises designed to get us debating, playing and competing, but which each landed different learnings around digital as one part of the communications armoury. We invented new tech start up concepts as a ‘mash up’ of existing apps, companies and need states. We also took everyday objects like stress balls and board games and looked at how digital technology could transform, improve or enhance them.
Then on the second day we were given real life OMD UK client briefs and asked to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to them, thinking creatively about applying technology trends to communications thinking. We were especially proud of our ‘Great British Burp Off’ idea for Walkers Deep Ridge Crisps; inspired, inventive thinking at its best!
Another key part of the learning was delivered by the two guest speakers that we were lucky enough to hear from, both entrepreneurial mavericks whose approaches were illuminating yet endearingly human. Nikhil Shah, co-founder of Mixcloud, “the world’s best radio in one place”, gave us an insight into the highs and lows of building a tech start-up. Whilst Chris Hassell, Creative Director and Co-founder of Ralph who specialise in creating online content and interactive promotional and advertising campaigns, made for compelling listening with his best practice in creating and distributing exciting, shareable content.
At the end of the two days, what knowledge did we take back to OMD UK?
- The division between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ is outdated, meaningless, and fundamentally wrong.
- Start with the consumer need and build your idea out from there. Don’t start with the technology.
- Speedy, instinctive thinking can be as fruitful a source of fantastic ideas as lengthy, granular exploration.
- Collaboration between a small, tight team from diverse backgrounds and specialisms is catnip to creative magic.
- Trying stuff out and making mistakes is a better way to go than waiting for something to be perfect and potentially missing the boat. Fail fast indeed.
- If your idea can’t be explained in 10 minutes or less, it’s probably not right. Simplicity is your friend.
- Oh, and Google have the best canteen in the world.
A huge thank you from all of us who experienced OMD Squared goes out to Google for facilitating and delivering such a great programme.