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Things will never be the same again. And that's good news.

things-will-never-be-the-same
In February 2000, Time Magazine reported an uncharacteristically emotive outburst from the usually unflappable Kurt Beck, German Premier of Rhineland-Palatinate and head of the broadcasting commission for German States. In it, he complained that a new TV show was not just 'idiotic', but that it 'violated the dignity of man'.

A year later, the UK's Guardian noted that the British version of the same show 'left traditionalists questioning how a niche-appeal television show could command such attention.'

This 'niche appeal' show was, of course, Big Brother, the Dutch export which has (so far) run for 448 seasons in 54 franchise countries, netted its creators Endemol 100s of millions of euros and, more importantly, brought a whole new genre of entertainment into being.

Prior to Big Brother, the smart money was on the emerging field of interactive TV, with Nielsen boldly predicting in 1998 that "Most of the video clips in these integrated services will be very brief" and that "Current CD-ROM encyclopedia are a good role model: even though they do have more bandwidth than the Web, CD-ROMs usually limit their video clips to 30 seconds. Much longer and users get bored and want to get back to interacting."

Big Brother revealed that the opposite is true -- people are content to watch hours of unscripted, unstructured TV where almost nothing happens, as long as they are emotionally engaged. It's perhaps no coincidence that this new appetite for long-form, event television spawned an equally pervasive explosion in long-form storytelling, beginning with the Soprano's in '99 and culminating in the box-set-binge culture we enjoy today.

Big Brother's genius was in its recognition that TV's new status as one of many screens in the home was an advantage, not a threat. The show became a crucible for a novel form of cultural value. It demonstrated that creative assets can be spontaneously created, amplified and monetized across multiple channels and media simultaneously - creating a self-reinforcing chain of value between TV, the Internet and traditional print media.

The Reality-TV revolution demonstrated that a shift in mindset can be a much more powerful driver for change than technology alone. The format finally freed TV from its legacy as a visual version of radio or scaled-down cinema, creating a renaissance in cultural relevance and impact.

Thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, we're seeing a similar shift in mindset take place in the world of advertising and brands today.

Temporarily freed from the decades-long patterns of campaign cycles and holding-company processes, the majority of brands are at last seeing what the forward-thinking minority have long known: there really is a smarter, faster, more efficient way.

In many ways, the structure and approach of the advertising industry has mirrored the 50-year adolescence of commercial TV, before it finally grew up and started partying in the 2000s

Over decades the pendulum has swung backwards and forwards - but never broken free. First, there was the full-service heyday of the 1980s when creative was king and the slur 'media is tedia' was order of the day. Then there was the emergence of specialist media shops and partner creative boutiques. Next, consolidation into the big five holding companies and a swing back towards full-service, with varying attempts at cross-discipline integration.

In the end, though, it's all been evolution, not revolution. Like the old days of TV, the tools are blunted and the talent unable to shine.

We believe that positive change and great work happens when technology and talent come together without constraints. It's this belief that led us to build a different kind of media group. We're now seeing the principles that underpin the Candid approach borne out by changes occurring across the industry.

Augmentation, not assimilation

Why would you take a group of entrepreneurs who have created a successful formula and seek to change it? It's counter-intuitive, and yet this is what happens time and time again when companies are 'absorbed' into a holding group. We've learned that by adapting our organisation around the companies that we welcome into it, rather than the reverse, we build adaptability and capacity for change into our DNA.

Platform, not process

The cliché that 'if you have a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail' is well-worn for a reason. Holding companies with their huge overheads and inflexible processes need to justify their existence (and deliver a margin), by selling processes that suit them -- not their clients. We've built Candid around a platform principle, where capabilities and resources are assembled in response to a client requirement, not the other way around.

Open organisation, not closed architecture

Even before, as we put it at the time, we 'opened 252 new Candid offices' in response to lockdown, we've recognised that talent flourishes with space, not structure. Creativity is the world's only inexhaustible resource, and by developing a culture where everyone has the opportunity to contribute in the way that works best for them, we've created the conditions for them to shine.

The last few months have brought a great deal of challenge. But this time of crisis has also inspired us all to be imaginative, and bring our best selves to the table. We're inspired to see others across the industry adopt a more open, transparent and candid approach to doing business. We look forward to the coming 448 seasons with optimism, I, for one, couldn't be more excited.
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