First off, this is not our latest clairvoyance show featuring Derek Acorah; it’s the thing that stops your business becoming obsolete in five years’ time.
It’s an essential activity which every business needs to do no matter their size. The industry moves so fast that, as the head of a creative company, I need to be a few steps ahead. To do that I must try and judge what’s cresting on the next wave.
To avoid all the tyre kicking that new possibilities come with, you first need a pretty clear sense of who you are as a company. Anyone looking ahead to the next trend or piece of technology must understand what it is they do best. That might sound overly simplistic but, in a highly complicated digital world, it is vital to find your niche as new tech or trends should only be considered in the context of how it can help your core offering.
There are really two ways of moving on new trends: 1) Appoint a direct strategy to research and utilise them or 2) Follow one’s hunches. At twofour, I think we have changed our approach. A few years ago we probably would have looked at every exciting new piece of technology and given it a try. Now, however, we increasingly look at what we do best – in our case, content – and then answer the question ‘how can we make content for a multi-platform world, and which technology can aid that?’
That’s really very different from being a company which tries doing this and tries doing that, and which tells their clients that they’re ‘in to it all’. One of the reasons so many digital companies go adrift is that they get focused on new possibilities and try too many things. Again, you should be asking if new trends can assist your core offering and only sign up if the answer is a resolute yes.
Once you have discovered a new ‘horizon to follow’ there’s still no need to own the whole value chain. In broadcast, second screen viewing is the next big thing, but that doesn’t mean twofour will try and develop second screen technology. Instead, we will partner with a company which has already invested in that market and allow them to develop the tech while we develop the content. It keeps you both in your comfort zones also saves you a bucket load in R&D costs.
That approach should also pervade how and when you move on a new technology. Again, using the second screen example, we all know it will be huge but we also know that at present it’s very hard to profit from. Personally I’d rather let a few other trailblazers spend thousands on pilots and R&D and then we’ll be part of the second wave when a template is in place. If you slavishly become a first adopter of new technologies then you’re the one who loses the money while someone else comes along and profits afterwards.
Partnership is a neat way of avoiding those issues but it really depends on what your aspirations are. At twofour we aspire to be Britain’s most loved content creation company across multi-platform. We do not aspire to be technological trailblazers – and that is probably not what our clients want from us either. So ask, what do your clients want?
Nevertheless, media has changed and you will need to keep an eye on the curve. Only 20 years ago you could produce a film, everybody would watch it in the cinema and then clap at the end. Now content has to be made to deliver in lots of different directions, you really have to sweat your product and there’s much less clapping at the end. But the proliferation of new platforms means that all media is now widely consumed. That opportunity should excite creatives because for the first time ever start-ups can now reach the same audience as the establishment! The trick really comes full circle to my first point; if you are a new agency, figure out what it is you do best and then research which platforms or new technologies will assist you.
Nobody quite knows what is going to happen in the near future but that shouldn’t stop us trying to find out.
Few companies produce content as varied as Diving with Tom Dailey and Greatest Plastic Surgery Shockers, but twofour’s range and breadth has taken it from West Country start-up to an international powerhouse with studios in LA and Abu Dhabi.
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