Where does the power lie? And where will it lie in the future?

A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to this online video (below).

It’s funny because at some stage we’ve all sat in a meeting like that – where things don’t quite make sense but people insist on pushing ahead regardless. (Note to anyone who has worked with me before: you’d probably know this as the time I ask something like, ‘Are we confusing momentum with progress?’ or ‘Are you sure we’re not trying to build a house on sand?’)

Anyway, I think this video is a great representation of where the power lies in most business transactions. But more importantly, it can also make you wonder how things will work in the future.
So let’s just look at that.

Meeting LabelsThere are 5 people in the meeting and for the sake of this article, I’ve labelled each of them.
The actual transaction is happening between Person A and Person D.
Person A is supplying the product/service that Person D is seeking.
However, Person C owns that relationship and has positioned A as his commodity.
E is a minor stakeholder in D’s purchase.
B is simply training to be like C in the future.

This is how business has tended to work throughout the industrial age.
In most cases, the power has always rested with ‘the gate’ rather than the expert.
For example, Apple doesn’t make music but by owning the means in which people access it, they take the biggest cut.
Likewise for Google. They don’t make the information, but they facilitate access to it.
Supermarkets don’t grow food, but they control the gate by which people obtain it.

However the dynamics of this model are being challenged and this can offer up a number of scenarios for how the advertising business (and many others) will operate in the future.
It’s now easier than ever for Person D to directly contact Person A. This doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Person C (or B) as it cuts them out of the loop.
However, new opportunities exist for people to invent themselves as a ‘Person C of the future’ (like the creators of Airbnb being a gate to accommodation, or LinkedIn being a gate to labour).

Whichever way it plays out, one thing is for sure – there are too many people at that table.
Only one person is doing the work.
Two people are making the arrangements.
One person is the major buyer.
One person is a minor buyer.
In a world that is always looking for greater efficiency, where do you think the axe will fall?

3 responses to “Where does the power lie? And where will it lie in the future?

  1. GREAT post. I wish you were right. (In implying that one day suits might not be needed. Then presumably the creatives could pick up their salaries).

    However, it also implies that we creatives need to take a long hard look at ourselves. What is it about us – what are we not doing, or doing wrong – that means the Client is happy to pay for a go-between or translator between us and them?

  2. Yes, I think creatives do need to take a long, hard look at themselves. To a large degree, we’ve surrendered control of our business to other people (in this case, the suits). We haven’t been active in learning about the ‘business side’ of our business. As such, we’ve allowed ourselves to be positioned as a ‘resource’. There will always be ‘gatekeepers’, but if you want to be in control of your own destiny, you need to be the one who owns (or reinvents) the gate.

  3. It’s only been about four hours since I read this post and I’ve already used ‘house on sand’. We were chatting ideas, when i asked ‘What’s the client’s objective?’ No one could answer me.
    Oh, no.

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