Chris Colborn was the Chairperson and opening speaker at Click. His job title is Executive Vice President Creative Director at R/GA (American job titles are so much more impressive don’t you think?). His presentation was full of good stuff, but what interested me most was how R/GA has evolved as a business over the years whilst always keeping Design + Technology at its heart. In the 70’s R/GA started as a 2d animation company and soon after were pioneering 3-D computer assisted animation in major Hollywood movies. With so much technical talent ‘in house’ they were able to pioneer the emerging digital studio trend and then ride the wave of the first dotcom boom by applying their production skills to web design. Where’s this all going, I hear you ask? Well one of the big themes emerging out of that thing called Web 2.0 is the integration or re-integration of production back into creative agencies. Put another way, the successful agencies of the future are going to be ‘making more stuff’ in-house – mini-films, virals, prototypes, content, movies, books, pictures, art, illustration, animation etc.
Along with companies that started as design studios (like LOVE), film production companies, digital start-ups, 2/3d animation houses etc are all starting to take a bigger share of client budgets at the expense of traditional advertising agencies. As creative requirements shift, the craft skills required will constantly shift too, making it increasingly difficult for cumbersome, inflexible agencies staffed with 'old-style' specialists to evolve quickly and often enough. So do they take the time to re-train everyone? Do they employ lots of new-age specialists and slowly 'offload' the old-schoolers? Do they create an agency of generalists - multi-skilled craftspeople who know a lot about creating lots of things?
Or is there a new model – loose collaborations of ‘micro-businesses’ who pool their specialist craft skills to make new things. And if they’re groups of little businesses connected by technology, do they all have to sit together in big buildings in city centres? If you're sitting in an agency wrestling with these issues (and if you're not, wake up!) you'll be re-assured to know that one big theme emerged from the conference. No-one has found the answer. Yet.
Posted by Jonathan Rigby