What Drives Agency Digital Development?
What drives an agency to take a leap into software development and what drives the development of an agency tool when so many tools already exist?
As agency owners is it ego? The personal need for a challenge? A desire for unimaginable wealth or all of the above?
In small part each of these motivators are peppered into the overall mix, although wealth creation seems like a far off dream when you’re in your third straight year of development and the cash flows steadily out.
In reality the core driver has been to develop a tool to help our industry improve. Over time we’ve witnessed the erosion of talent and value and we wanted to provide a lifeline for an industry beleaguered by DIY tools. Tools that are promoted during Super Bowl Sunday to a generalist audience as to turn would-be clients into creatives in their own right. An undermining of our industry's professional creativity.
Of course it would be nice to someday retire off the back of all this selfless love. Love of an industry that has inspired and challenged us professionally, kept our families warm in winter and provided the team with a cold beer at the end, often in the middle and sometimes at the start of the working week.
Right now we are trying our damnedest to hold back the tide of pedestrian digital experiences. Manufactured online properties, the product of generalist tools that have been built for the masses and constantly modified by people who create little in terms of beauty and who have no business influencing design.
Web design has moved away from Michelin stars and steadily toward Maccas. The Golden Arches are perfect if you have a hankering for the entirely predictable, for cheap and cheerful - the drive-through option. But there remains a market for a product that is without compromise. Ad agencies and design studios are constantly compromising their creative vision and relenting to the constraints of software - and why? Most often the tools are engineered, not designed or architected by designers. It’s that simple. Short order chef vs Ramsay et al.
One could argue that there’s little inherently wrong with these generalist DIY tools in the hands of small business owners, florists, bakers and even some web developers, however we would argue vigorously that there is little right about them for design professionals. If the brief is to build a digital property to function online and perform a rudimentary task while looking nice then by all means ‘fill your boots’.
But here’s a question for anyone in adland. How many fee paying, brand conscious, design savvy, results oriented agency clients have ever set their expectations that low?
In setting the bar high we have created a tool for our time and for our industry. Does it feel great to read the unsolicited feedback from front end developers around the world? You bet it does. Does it warm our hearts to know that creatives are valuing the product of our labours? Of course. Are we likely to become wealthy beyond our wildest dreams? Not sure, but if we can help turn the tide and give agency design teams a tool to help them shine, giving back creative credibility and distancing the agency digital proposition from that of the generalist market, then we’ve achieved what we set out to.
What’s next? Well software is a rabbit hole that seems to run deep. As indie ad agency owners ourselves, we never expected to be on the product-owner side of the conversation but it’s pretty bloody exciting, so we’ll stick with it and see where the journey takes us. Championing creativity isn’t a chore, it’s fundamental to who we are. It’s what our clients expect of us and it's what we expect of ourselves so it’s unlikely we’ll be settling for the pedestrian any time soon.
Graeme Blake is CEO of Blutui.com