It’s Hacker time

The word ‘hack’ is one of a myriad things rejigged by the digital age.

Pre-21st century, ‘hack’ was defined as “a person who does dull routine work”.

Today in the indispensable Dictionary app, that definition doesn’t even appear. The new incarnation of ‘hack’ — alongside “short-circuiting computer code”, is “(an)… efficient method for doing something.”

In the new world of digitally-powered brands, ‘growth-hacking’ is the new marketing; its ultimate aim is to accelerate growth without laying out a cent on paid advertising.

This is achieved via stuff like bootstrapping and enlisting would-be customers/users to help develop your product, rather than creating the product in a vacuum, launching with a ‘Ta-Da!’ and crossing fingers.

I could go on (and on) but what really fascinates me is what the 21st growth-hacking mentality might contribute to the current marketer/ad agency relationship.

The 21st century hack is the finding of clever solutions to cut all manner of process attached to and cash-outlay spent on stuff deemed indispensable solely on the basis of “that’s the way it’s always been done”. For instance the belief that you can’t launch a product without a hefty TV budget. Or that clients will continue to pay for all 27 people you bring to a presentation rather than just the four who actually created and presented it.

Perhaps hacking away at agency fees is just marketers’ way of nudging Madison Avenue out of the 20th century?

Much of the cash that marketers used to splash on the above is now going to leaner, smaller agencies from all over to do the stuff that they clearly believe is indispensable, agencies tightly-focused on specialized areas like creativity and strategy.

Leaving Madison Avenue to its increasingly unrequited 20th century love affair with bigness.

Such as the CEO of one of the big US ad agencies proudly and publicly marveling at his agency’s ‘success’ by reminiscing how relatively recently they had but a handful of staff and now *hands intertwine over heart, mock-humble head-shake* they number over 600! Smh.

On the basis that there are barely 6 brilliant creative and strategic thinkers left in Madison Ave, even if they all work at the above agency, what do the other 594 people do? Clearly they favor the 20th century kind of hack. Kinda tough to argue successfully for higher fees on that basis.

This article was originally published on Mark’s website.