Thursday, July 7th, 2016 | 3 min read
Duan Evans joined AKQA 16 years ago when it was just 50 people. Obviously, much has changed within AKQA, advertising, and the industry as a whole since then. I recently met up with Duan at Cannes to discuss some of the critical changes he’s witnessed and how he’s helping clients reinvent themselves in the digital age. Below are a few highlights from our conversation.
I joined AKQA 16 years ago when it was just 50 people; we now have more than 1,700 employees worldwide. Much has changed during these years and AKQA has undergone multiple transformations. But the way we work with clients has stayed the same. It was, and still is, about pushing our clients’ businesses forward.
We’ve been helping our clients to transform themselves, before there was even such a thing as digital transformation. Before companies had digital divisions or innovation departments, we were doing innovative work and helping them set up their digital team. Transformation is a large part of our DNA.
Some companies are really ahead of the curve – just take a look at what’s happening in startup scenes around the world. But I think digital maturation across the industry, as a whole, is still in its infancy.
Digital transformation is especially difficult within larger organizations. They see the potential and value of digital and social – and they’re setting up teams and divisions to drive change – but implementing the changes necessary is a different beast. It’s easier to turn a speedboat than to turn the Titanic.
Some clients are very proactive when it comes to reinventing themselves, and some come to us because they don’t know where to start. Without going into details about who’s where, I think no one’s at the same place. Some people are shooting through, and some people are just getting on the wagon.
Perseverance. At AKQA, we sometimes pitch ideas we know will be great, but will also take five years to truly unfold. This timeline doesn’t work for every company – many brands are only looking only toward the next year or the next season when they’re doing planning sessions. Some of our most innovative clients still work around seasons and product releases. So when we approach them with an atypical vision, the response is, “That’s way too far for us, that’s five years in the future.” In those instances, we have to firm with what we think is best, while partnering with them to build out gradual steps toward the ideal state.
For individuals, teams, or companies in a similar situation, I think having perseverance, seeing a roadmap, and believing in your ideas is key.