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Time for Lemonade

When life gives you lemons, some plonker will always send you a text or a link or a post on your fake wall with the eternally helpful advice that you should make some lemonade.

Great. Thanks. Let’s get onto that immediately.

I’ve never been a fan of that kind of positivity. The kind you find on cross-stitch or in poorly art-directed Facebook posts. It’s almost as grating as the billionth iteration of Lee Clow’s Crazy Ones. ‘Here’s to the dreamers and the thinkers and the relentless modification of verbs into proper nouns to make us all feel better’. Nope, not a fan.

It’s not like I’m being negative. I just think talk is cheap and the concept of visualising a better future is less productive than the rolling up of sleeves and building one. So when I was asked for my take on “the future for agencies” I set aside the crystal ball to go back to the basics of what agencies actually do. And I reckon it’s a lot like running a lemonade stand.

GRAB THE OPPORTUNITY

Lemonade stands aren’t great without lemons. It sounds obvious, but it’s not always. The basic premise of lemonading is to monetise a glut of recently ripened fruit. Starting with that opportunity, you just need to grab it, size it, add some value and sell it.

The same is true of agencies. Very few will be fed by sitting and waiting for work. Even fewer will be fed by trying to sell stuff clients don’t want to buy. But nestled in the hustle of spotting opportunities and adding value there’s plenty of ways for agencies to turn opportunity into money for their clients and themselves.

MAKE STUFF BETTER

The secret of the lemonade stand isn’t lemons, it’s the recipe. The water, the ice, the sugar, the signage and the secret something handed down from Nana. Agency is just the same. It’s not really what we do that sets us apart, it’s the value-add of how we do it.

Anyone can write a post or make a poster. Some do it better than others. And agencies make money in that margin. That’s why it’s essential to always add value. Take something, do something, make it better. Turn challenges into strategies, problems into solutions and briefs into creative that customers love to connect with. The only way to survive is to always make stuff better.

STEAL LIKE A PIRATE

Let’s be honest, most Lemonade stands make money from theft. Lemons, free. Water, tap. Sugar, stolen from the larder. Even the advertising costs of on-street signage are crafted onto cardboard found around the house. Advertising is pretty much the same.

It’s our job to create distinctive conversations that build clients brands. That’s why we talk about the importance of originality. But it’s largely bollocks. There are only seven advertising ideas, three or four fundamental strategies and a handful of channels and formats. Everything we do is built of stolen parts.

The genius of advertising is the joining of those stolen dots. We’re really good at rebuilding cultural lego into something new. While nothing is truly original, it’s the combinations and permutations of stolen stuff that make our work exponentially different. And the more stuff we steal, the better that work will be.

GRAB, ADD, STEAL AND WIN

That might sound a great way to go to prison. But it’s also why the future of advertising is anchored in our the past. It’s about grabbing opportunity, adding creativity and joining stolen dots that others can’t see how to join. Just like always.

And while anyone who thinks the future will be easy is dreaming, anyone who thinks it’s ever been easy hasn’t been doing it right. So here’s to the dreamers, the schemers, the planners and the tinkerers – it’s time to stop talking and make some lemonade.

That’s what I reckon, what do you think?

Michael Goldthorpe is a managing partner at Hunch

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