Each year in the agency world we see new buzzwords coming into play and agencies frantically trying to own them. While TBWA may have owned the word disruption since the mid-nineties, it’s since become the fast sought after label that agencies are chasing to own.

The fact of the matter is a creative agency should, by its very nature, be disruptive. If you’re not disrupting industries or markets, creating a new normal or pushing new boundaries, then you’re not being creative enough.

As the popular saying goes, you should do as you do, not as you say. Agencies must establish what its core values are, simply broken down into 2 or 3 points and then keep this central message at the heart of everything they do. A strong identity and following your own values is a far better way for an agency to set itself apart.

But, as much as I hate to use the term, sticking to these values has proved disruptive. Showing clients a new way of thinking and working, and stripping away standard industry zeitgeist and practices will make you far more relatable, and allow you to produce more effective, truthful work. Being a slave to trends, defined by buzzwords belittles a client’s intelligence and only profligates the stereotypes that give the industry a bad reputation.

Disrupting a market can often be out of the hands of a brand and creative agency, making it a difficult and somewhat pointless goal to chase. It’s true there are iconic products and brands that have re-defined a category or ‘disrupted’ a marketplace through a creative idea executed well – Apple’s game changing iPhone, Virgin’s punk roots taken to global travel, and Airbnb’s belief in community and the sharing economy disrupting the hospitality market. It’s the underground adoption of products and consumers by the wider community which are unforeseen by brands, strategists and creative agencies and that really disrupt. These non-marketed phenomena demonstrate true, unprecedented change in markets, driven by consumers, not a clever creative strategy.

There are plenty of examples of non-marketed products which have been real game changers – entirely altering the way we communicate or engage with brands. The ‘youth market’ adoption of Blackberry and BDM; the rapid, under-the radar emergence of WhatsApp with 30 billion messages sent daily; Hush Puppies and the Hipsters in New York as cited by Malcolm Gladwell. The biggest changes, as with anything, are driven by the masses.

As much as we look to predict the next trend or space, agencies should look to define themselves with more certain qualities. Focusing on the timeless principles of your great ideas, beautiful design and relationships will make you more authentic as an agency. The strength of this work will help build an identity to be proud of rather than chasing buzzwords that by the time you get close to are already last year’s news.


By Ben Wright, Co-Founder and COO at DesignStudio.

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