Australian Design Radio

Some of the best ideas are blatantly obvious. For example this one: ‘Let’s do an interview podcast with the Australian design scene, because it doesn’t exist yet”. But how many good ideas never get made? Too many. Luckily Flyn Tracy and Matt Leach (whose day jobs include leading Sydney’s Tractor Design School) were undeterred and are now introducing Australian Design Radio to our earbuds.

Matt Leach and Flyn Tracy

ADR creator Matt Leach and Flyn Tracy

And as their latest interviewee, yours truly got an opportunity to talk about design, creative technology and mentorships. Some top questions from Jason Little and the listeners were addressed as well.  Click through to listen to my chat with Matt & Flyn here:

https://australiandesignradio.simplecast.fm/6

Australian Design Radio Episode 6

Australian Design Radio Episode 6 with myself

When Australian Design Radio launched less than a month ago, it took off like a naughty pic on Snapchat. Shooting to more than a 1,000 listeners per episode, it already features on Apple’s coveted New & Noteworthy iTunes page.

ADR recommended on iTunes

ADR recommended on iTunes

Creative luminaries interviewed so far were Jason Little (ex Re & Landor, now For The People), Kevin Finn (DesigNerd, Open Manifesto & The Sum Of, ex-Saatchi), Frankie Ratford (The Design Kids), Matt Stott (Common, ex-Attik) and Chris Doyle (own studio, ex-Interbrand).

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Matt, Flyn and I in the (increasingly warm) ADR podcast studio

The interview itself was hugely enjoyable, because Matt and Flyn are top blokes and cultural connectors-par-excellence. I am sure the podcast will greatly increase their reputation. In addition to just having a chat with about our views on design, I was able to reflect on the reasons for my creative approach and past choices of clients and projects.

So let the guys know what you think of Australian Design Radio and subscribe to the whole series on iTunes. Lots of high calibre creatives are already lining up to go ‘On Air’ with Matt and Flyn for ‘ADR – Season 2′.

How to MC a conference in 10 steps

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A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to MC the 10th edition of Web Directions. WebDirections is Sydney’s premier conference for the creative development scene with about 700 attendees and plenty of high-profile international speakers. I have to thank Maxine Sherrin and John Allsopp for trusting me to guide the  audience of the Product, Experience and Design stream.
It was an absolute pleasure and if I could, I would jump onto the next stage tomorrow and do it all over again. Judging from the audience’s reactions I didn’t do a shabby job either. Videos of each talk including my MC-ing bit will appear shortly and I will repost them here. So if are organising a conference, panel, session or series of talks or know someone who does, drop me a line and I’d be happy to help out in the near future. ;)

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Looking back, it was a fresh challenge for me to switch positions and, rather than being a speaker myself, talk to other speakers about their topic. During their speeches I was simultaneously taking notes, weighing up pre-researched questions with live tweets from the floor, scribbling tangential thoughts I had while listening. Most importantly I was judging the live audience’s physical reactions, whether they were leaning in, laughing or getting distracted.

15716387522_d299d71c79_zOverall it was a great training exercise in moderation. As for prep, I had the help of Andy Murray (Gatsby Studio) who is actually an illustrator and artist by trade. He brilliantly MC’d the previous conference I was speaking at, Sex Drugs & Helvetica. there is a short review from it here on my blog. As you might be able to tell from the two photos below, I nicked the idea of having seats and a table from the Sex, Drugs & Helvetica event. You can see that the furniture style and arrangement even looks similar, but that happened without me briefing Web Directions on it.

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There is a very comprehensive review of the conference and many speakers here on Ben Buchanan’s blog, additionally some observations here from Kye White. In the below I would simply like to add a few personal thoughts on what an MC is supposed to do. It is a combination of what Andy Murray told me and what I picked up during the day. Take it as advice if you’re planning to do something similar and let me know if it worked for you as well:

  1. It’s not about you, it’s about the speakers. So don’t play up your questions and opinions like you’re an additional speaker. Let the audience feel at ease, the first 20 – 60 seconds are crucial for it.
  2. Organise your notes on housekeeping, don’t stumble across details as to when the break takes place or who’s up next.
  3. Keep your question short, ideally no more than 7 seconds. Interviewees start thinking about their answer after that point. So they will be unable to listen any longer. You’ll notice it happen when an interviewee asks the MC ‘So what was the question again?’
  4. When you are interested, the audience will be interested as well. Try to find something that interests you personally – the audience will follow you. You direct their interest through you, just like actors create empathy for the roles they are playing.
  5. Do some research on the speakers, but don’t overdo it. You’re not acting as some sort of human wikipedia. As soon as you rattle off too many points, especially when reading them off a written card, everything will sound forced on stage.
  6. Your research will help you have an informal chat with the speakers beforehand. Have them tell you an anecdote, something that, when you retell it on stage, will make the audience believe you’re familiar with the speaker. Some people at WD believed I had known the speakers from before whereas I had only just met them.
  7. It’s your job to let speakers feel at ease, like they are just telling you their answer. An experienced speaker might be able to address both MC and audience simultaneously, but most speakers are professional experts in their field, not in public speaking.
  8. Try to draw connections between the talks where you can. Even if the link is spontaneous and idiosyncratic, it will make the audience feel like there is a flow and a theme to the event.
  9. Give the later speakers something to bounce off of. After I mentioned in one Q&A, that there might be too much agreement among the presenters, up came Dan Hon. He opened his talk with a slide on ‘controversy’ and ‘dissent’. This trick can also help the speakers energise their own talk. It then has a fresh element to the last time they spoke about the same topic.
  10. Finally, be respectful to an audience, be they paying or non-paying. Do a good job, be prepared, rehearse your bits and concentrate.They have come to give you their attention. So don’t insult them by trying ‘to just wing it’.

Overall it was fantastic opportunity to get to know some brilliant minds from around the world. There were some seasoned speakers among them, which helped me compare their styles in a short amount of time.

Douglas bowman Douglas Bowman, TwitterScottThomasScott ThomasThe Noun ProjectMattWebbMatt Webb, BERGScreenshot 2014-11-23 15.44.14Jonny Mack, Google15512650089_4fe346b266_oTom Armitage, InfovoreDanHonDan Hon, Code for America15512649569_07139ff2f2_oErin Moore, Twitter15700118352_3983ff3b5d_oYounghee Jung, Nokia/MicrosoftTobias RevellTobias Revell, Superflux/ARUPjohnallsopp2John Allsopp, Web DirectionsmaxinesherrinMaxine Sherrin, Web Directions15691117216_b946eb5672_zPhotos by Xavier Ho – Jump to Glide and Tim Lucas – ToolManTim, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

10 years of Creative Social

CreativeSocial is celebrating its 10th Birthday. While we in our Sydney chapter can’t put that many candles on the cake (I think we started in or around 2006), we are still very excited to celebrate alongside our London comrades this November.

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Co-founder Daniele Fiandaca posted about it already. Passing this decade milestone means we’ll be curating a month of content with the help of the socials and some of the friends we’ve made along the way. There will be plenty of video interviews, thought pieces and opinion posts all celebrating a decade of CS over on the official CreativeSocial blog.

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Guest contributors will include Nathan Cooper (@Rubbishcorp) Founder of Rubbishcor, Gareth Jones (@CJ) Global Chief Brand & Content Officer, DigitasLBi, Patrick Collister (@directnewideas) Head of Design at Google, Emily Hare (@contagious) Managing Editor at Contagious Magazine and our ‘local boy done good’ Aden Hepburn (@adenhepburn) MD & DCD at VML Australia, founder of Digital Buzz Blog.

See the first of the videos that we made with some of the socials above, you will discover yours truly looking back on his role at MetaDesign in 2004

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Agency Open House Sydney

Register for our free event now: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/web-directions-agency-open-house-reactive-tickets-4776690209

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Next Wednesday afternoon, Sydney will see its first Agency Open House. You can visit and have a beer with people at places like Reactive, Host, Soap, Deepend Group, Digital Arts Network, Reborn, WeAreSocial, Pollen, TheFarm,Small Multiples or The Interaction Consortium.

Check out this Agency Open House microsite for Wednesday October 29 where you can also RSVP to the respective agency events. Rub shoulders with art directors, copywriters, uber-geeks, producers and strategy minds. Learn from their work exhibited, listen to talks, ask questions, make connections. You could score an internship, dream job or your next creative collaboration partner. As it is part of Web Directions 2014, expect some heavy hitters from their international speaker roster like Jessica Hische to maybe make a cameo appearance. Just saying….

Check out the full program to RSVP here

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We at Reactive are excited to partner with Web Directions & Creative Social to open our doors for a Sydney-wide Agency Open House So in particular we would love for you to join us at our office in Surry Hills next Wednesday afternoon (Oct 29), between 4-6pm. You can RSVP by registering online https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/web-directions-agency-open-house-reactive-tickets-4776690209

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What are Web Directions, Creative Social and this Agency Open House?

Since 2004, Web Directions has been Australia’s cutting edge conference that bring together the world’s most pioneering, interactive creative directors, business owners, strategists and other global experts of digital design and development. As a social warm-up for this year’s Web Directions (October 30-31) the aim of our joint Agency Open House is to have a beer and a chat, explore agencies’ work and workplaces and build some new connections. Reactive has been part of Creative Social since 2007 and together with this group of leading agencies, we recognise that collaborating in a digital landscape is how we will advance the whole industry and enjoy the journey.

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What’s the inspiration all about?

Reactive has been a partner of Web Directions for 3 years now. This year is particularly special as we were invited to create the opening title sequence for the conference. The film is completely HTML-generated and plays live in the browser, unlike traditional videos.

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One of our creatives involved, Melissa Baillache, explains the thinking behind the film:

“We wanted to touch on the importance of everyone that come together to imagine, design, create and build great digital products and services. The people, who passionately labour over the tiny details, behind the scenes as well as at the forefront of the digital world. In our film, all these individuals are represented by a ‘pixel’. Their stories evolve into playful geometric structures, yet always keep their original core—the element that binds everything together into a single experience.”

We’d be thrilled if you can stop by Reactive’s office for some beers, food and showcasing and explaining the tech behind the title sequence. Registering can be done by simply replying to this email or visiting the event page below:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/web-directions-agency-open-house-reactive-tickets-4776690209

We hope to see you next Wednesday arvo, guys!

Sex, Drugs and Helvetica with Reactive

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Reactive represented at Sex, Drugs & Helvetica in Melbourne and Brisbane in September. The attendance was great – we had almost 900 people in both places together. But most of all it was fab bunch of speakers: great creatives but also clever and generous human beings, on and off stage. It was possibly the best group I have yet had the honour of sharing a stage with. 

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Opening up was Chris Doyle, easily the funniest man in Design (go on, follow him on http://instagram.com/cdandco ).

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As he spoke about his work for The Jezables we learnt how he used to lay it all bare on stage as singer of a Screamo band from Canberra (oh dear, double whammy). How he managed to mix stand up comedy with screaming emo music is a mystery to me.

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Following him were Fabio Orangato Design and Michaela from Studio Round, both working in Melbourne. After me and countering Chris’s antics (while not being unfunny) was Kevin Finn with his thoughtfulness and passion for deep design thinking.

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His series of Open Manifesto books are renowned the world over Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 6.08.58 PMand he continues to work with global creative luminaries like Vince Frost, Stefan Sagmeister and Steven Heller on his trivia game DesigNerd.

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Michael C Place (previously of Designers Republic fame and now leading Build) rounded it off and spoke about a great project for Ukrainian kids TV station PlusPlus that created lots of ups and downs (mostly downs actually).

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We at Reactive have already admired Michael and Build for their great character designs for Virgin America. Check them out, they are a hoot.

BLD_VA_WEB-01Here are more snap shot impressions from the ground: http://instagram.com/sdhelvetica and here is a live blog doco http://www.sexdrugshelvetica.com/liveblog2014 Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 5.04.33 PM

Find below a more elaborate write up from SDH of the actual talks:
http://www.sexdrugshelvetica.com/recap-sex-drugs-helvetica-conference-2014

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This whole experience wouldn’t have been possible without some incredible passionate and talented youngsters organising the event. As I mentioned on stage in my talk in Melbourne, at their age I was spending day and night in techno bunkers in Berlin. I was definitely not organising high-calibre creative events. So big props to Nick, Zac, Leisha and Andy (pictured below) for their work.

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If you now feel like living on the wild side of design, with the right shirt to match your ‘tude, then here are the original T-shirts on the Sex, Drugs & Helvetica Shop: http://sex-drugs-helvetica.myshopify.com And see you at next year’s event.

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Content Marketing Picture with Getty Images

The most widely spoken language in the world isn’t Mandarin – it’s pictures! These and other truths will come out today when Micha Schwing (Getty), Chris Collacott (Deloitte), Lucy Sutton (King Content) and I talk ‘content marketing’ with particular focus on images. Micha Schwing is Global Director for Content Strategy at Getty Images. She explores the evolving meaning of imagery in advertising and marketing, identifying how consumers and brands engage in the wider visual culture.

Here is a link to today’s event at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney:
http://mumbrella.com.au/content-marketing-picture

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As a contributor to Getty Rise and editor of Adverblog I have my fair share of editorial experience. Including Facebook pages with a six-figure audience – what works, what doesn’t, how to combine copy and images. And ever since content production became more prominent in the marketing mix, I have helped brands like WeightWatchers, Bonds, Nescafe and XXXX Gold do the same and initiate their own programs.

Standing out visually has always been a creative cornerstone of my projects. Most recently we at Reactive initiated a world first collaboration of WeightWatchers and Getty Images: using Getty’s API Connect allowed Australians to tell their very individual success stories, choosing from millions of the world’s most popular photos.

Quick Update:

Mumbrella content marketing picture panel

Tim Burrowes (Mumbrella), Tim Buesing (Reactive), Chris Collacott (Deloitte Digital), Lucy Sutton (King Content), Micha Schwing (Getty Images)

Mumbrella has written a little summary of our different view points here.

I thoroughly enjoyed partaking in this Mumbrella ‘Content Marketing Picture’ panel and was able to learn quite a lot from debating with Micha Schwing, Tim Burrowes, Chris Collacott and Lucy Sutton. The points we covered ranged from:

  • can brands actually be authentic? It seems sometimes easier to answer in B2B marketing where it is a lot about people, projects and case studies
  • what’s the best governance and how does the organisation need to plan ahead before launching into content production and publication? what structure, resources and process need to be in place?
  • what’s a reasonable and sustainable strategy, what are the aims?
    what amplification and automation opportunities are there? Marketing automation isn’t automated marketing.
  • how can ROI be measured? It doesn’t have to be monetary, it can also be employee retention or innovation projects.
  • are marketers more open to a true portrayal of modern Australia, e.g. in regards to ethnicity, lifestyles, morality,…

We covered a lot of ground and I want to thank Getty and Mumbrella for inviting me as well as my co-panelists for their thoughts.

Interview on Innovation with Daniele Fiandaca

I have just published one chapter of our new Creative Social book ‘ Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief’ called ‘The Role of Innovation in Agencies”, written by Daniele Fiandaca. To supplement the chapter I interviewed Daniele below and in it we dive a bit deeper into the topic. You can read the book chapter we reference here. And, if you’re keen to know more about the future of advertising, then you can purchase the whole book as a paperback on Lulu.com. An e-book version and the Amazon purchase option are coming very soon.

Daniele was until recently Head of Innovation at Cheil UK, with key clients that include Coca Cola, Converse and Samsung. Previously he ran Profero for over a decade, growing it from a small team in London to the global business it is now. He continues to run Creative Social, which he founded alongside Mark Chalmers in 2004 and recently co-founded Innovation Social with Nadya Powell. He is an ongoing Hyper Island Masterclass speaker and Course Leader. Daniele’s passion include film (his favourite film is Nuovo Cinema Paradiso), collecting vinyl toys, and traveling to exotic places. The best advice he was ever given was from reading a blogpost by Dave Trott, when he wrote “Better to be wrong and interesting than right and boring”.

+ First of all, Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief, which one are you?

I honestly couldn’t say one or the other, I am all of them. But ok, if my life depended on it, probably Thief!

+ Why is it up to agencies to innovate? Don’t the clients have deeper knowledge as well as pockets to solve their own future problems?

Alex Jenkins, Editor of Contagious magazine recently said “A client told me “I didn’t want to pay for my agencies to experiment and innovate as much as I needed them to.”

The fact is that our marketing clients are extremely busy and often just too close to the coalface and have little time to think let alone drive innovation. What agencies are very good at is giving a different perspective which is driven from learnings across a number of clients as well as an overall understanding on how technology is driving changes in our audience. And what this means at a communications level. I like to think that a big part of the opportunity for agencies is that by adding a layer of creativity to new and existing communications technologies, we can help solve client problems.

Anders Sjostedt, Global Partnership Director, who writes his own chapter in the book goes even further by saying that agencies need to in fact refocus so they are delivering innovation, education and transformation. By understanding technology and its impact on people, agencies are in the perfect position to understand what impact it is going to have on their client’s business. The next step is education. If you know more than your client, then your client will naturally ask you to help them understand it better. And if you have enough knowledge in that area and have the methodology on how to deliver education, you will naturally move into the strategic discussion. All agencies want to be involved the in strategic discussion but don’t invest in what is needed. Agencies need to immerse themselves into the brand and understand what the future holds.

Ultimately this will naturally lead into business transformation and will make agencies an invaluable partner to their clients.

+ You are calling innovation ‘a matter of life-or-death’ for agencies. Is it really that dramatic?

It totally depends on how broken you think advertising is. I personally think that advertising is really quite broken right now. If we want to remain relevant to clients, we need to both innovate as an industry as well as help our clients innovate both in their communications as well as in their business/product.

+ If it is that dramatic, can every agency solve it on their own?

I think there is certainly a movement in the UK towards marketing and advertising working with start-ups to learn from their ability to develop solutions quickly and to pivot their product where needed. Agility is certainly one of the buzzwords at the moment in the industry and I think we were right in my previous agency, Cheil, to aspire to be one of the most agile agencies in the industry. What was really interesting for me though was the work we were doing as an innovation team to actually help our clients become more agile.

+ Do you think integrated and media agencies have caught up with digital agencies when it is comes to innovation? Or is there still a cultural advantage at play with the digital shops?

Theodore Levitt, Professor, Harvard Business School defines innovation as follows: “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” I think that this definition has confounded those that grew up in digital advertising as most of the creative work we were delivering was about doing new things. And it is really the fact that we were at our heart makers and hackers (as well as teachers and thieves of course), that really separated digital agencies from integrated and media agencies and these skills I do think help us in delivering ongoing innovation. Saying that I do think the future is not digital but rather an evolved form of integration which also encompasses shopper marketing thinking – I have learnt so much in the last three years working with people like Emma Perkins, Jamie King. Pete Martin and Simon Hathaway, who all come from a shopper marketing background.

+ What’s our relationship to progressive, innovative production companies in this regard? Some agencies want to leave the actual ‘making’ to them.

I think we all know that the creative process is much more fluid than that. If your agency wants to work in an agile fashion, you need people on the ground doing. And taking a prototype of an idea into a meeting, that can actually sell the idea. Especially when your clients are very visual people.

+ Do I understand you correctly, integrated agencies are better at thinking new things and digital agencies at doing new things?

That depends on what you mean by integrated. I think it’s more a question of where the agency came from. And I don’t believe in the model of planners coming up with single minded propositions that creatives then work from. The future is getting a mixture of people that tackle the clients’ problems together.

+ We are seeing some digital agencies going into advertising and some moving into customer experiences, with both paths hopefully leading them to innovative work.

The advertising industry is sometimes still woefully sniffy about digital agencies. Yet some of these places like DigitasLBi or SapientNitro have done amazingly well and are now bigger than them. But they are in a different space. Engineering, process and science play a big role. Creativity does as well but I would say it’s not as much part of their culture. They do add massive value to their clients’ businesses.  Still, for me personally it’s not does not deliver the same satisfaction as creating something that truly connects with people.

+ So how can digital agencies innovate the more traditional marketing channels?

I think digital agencies are often victims of their reputation, what clients perceive them to be able to do. Actually, it can be easier to start a new shop, with a new name but with the same people. And then go after and innovate the more traditional marketing channels.

+ You are listing 9 criteria for driving innovation. Do all need to be addressed for success to happen? Is there one criteria more important than the others? Which one do you see being ignored most often?

I do personally think they all have a part to play although if you were going to pull one out it would be the need for innovation not to operate in a silo. For this to happen I do think it needs more than just having senior responsibility as it ultimately needs to be from the CEO down and be integrated into the overall strategy for the agency otherwise it will not get the time and support that is needed for innovation to succeed. Because fact is innovation is not easy. As Henry Chesbrough, Author and Leading Innovation Academic comments ‘”Most innovations fail. And companies that don’t innovate die.”

+ Have you found a way to measure the innovation’s success in the agency? Can you actually measure an ROI?

It’s definitely about opening up new opportunities with existing and new clients, getting them to buy innovative ideas. So in that way, it’s about new business and differentiating the agency from the competition. Those are major KPIs together with being recognised and shortlisted for innovation, ideally internationally.

+ Financially speaking, do you have to “go into the red” to achieve innovation?

Absolutely agree that innovation is expensive because their leaders tend to be quite senior and therefore pricey to hire. But I also don’t know a single ‘Head of Innovation’ that doesn’t wear multiple hats in the business. None of them are 100% on innovation but also take on new business and other client-facing roles. Irrespective I truly believe that innovation is at the heart of the future of our industry and it is an investment which will deliver a positive ROI if delivered successfully as part of a wider strategy.

+ Focussing on the role of ‘Head of Innovation’ itself: how do you avoid being the sole person responsible for it, becoming the person that just talks about it?

It has to be about delivery. And how you deliver it has to be transparent to everyone. But the more senior you are, the more you need people who can actually deliver, because it wouldn’t be cost-effective if you did it all yourself. Additionally, people in this role often come from a strategic background and aren’t necessarily ‘Makers’ themselves. That’s where a ‘Creative Technologist’ can function as a bridge between the innovation team and the tech team and creatives.

+ And what’s the biggest frustration for such a person?

The biggest frustration for innovation-driven people is probably that most people don’t see the world in the same way they do. But having actual makers in your team can bridge that gap between imagination and reality.

+ You have been guiding innovation from within agencies such as Cheil and Profero as well as from outside with HyperIsland. Which model brings better results and what feels more fulfilling for you personally?

I would love to say that there was a single model that works as I would then be very rich and have a successful model to sell to agencies and marketers. However there is not a single one size fits all and you will find some very different models in very different (and successful) agencies. However I would be surprised if creativity was not at the heart of every culture – it would be interesting to see how many of those 9 criteria they meet. I’d assume it would be a very high proportion. I would love to hear from your readers if they think there are any additional criteria.

Thank you, Daniele, for adding these thoughts to your chapter on ‘Innovation in Agencies’. Get the whole book here on Lulu: ‘ Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief’

You can follow Daniele on Twitter @YellIf
You can follow me on Twitter @TBuesing