What should the next generation of Don Drapers look like?

The Godfather of the digital agency world and founder of R/GA, Bob Greenburg, recently shared a compelling truth about our business that makes you rethink and reflect. According to him, “Death of creativity is a compelling but false adland narrative”.  As this Cannes Lion of St. Mark awardee maintains: “The opportunities of the connected world will give birth to a new generation of Don Drapers.”

Which makes you ask: What would make this new generation of Don Drapers create a dent in the world that:

Keeps getting real; where innovation triumphs ideas; where impact overrides consumption; where fail-faster is applauded over getting it right the first time; where prototyping takes centre stage over go-to-market and research; where entrepreneurial instincts overshadow conventional business acumen; where customers often have better ideas than the advertising-marketing teams; where client decision makers are often younger than you are; where strategies are real-time; where ROI is more about return on innovation & initiative, and not just investments; where life is perpetually lived in Beta…

Welcome to the Start-up Economy.

Nope, I’m not referring to Silicon Valley, or the world of tech start-ups. But the state of commerce and businesses rapidly changing all around us as we speak. This is Bob Greenburg’s Connected World - driven by entrepreneurial aspirations, and not merely conventional corporate acumen.

And the start-up economy is not just about apps that let you hail a cool cab; rent a backpacking holiday somewhere; or reserving a table at a hipster joint. This is a business phenomenon on the up, where innovation hungry global conglomerates like GE, Mastercard, Cisco, IBM and others are luring GenZ, brimming with ideas, to incubate their own version of Facebook, Twitter and Spotify.  It’s an era where access to technology is connecting ideas to inventors - where users are not just getting engaged, but even crowd-funding their own ideas of what products they want to buy.

An era where Ben Kauffman’s QUIRKY turns you into an inventor, where Ijad Madisch, a virologist from Harvard, connects over three million scientists globally through ResearchGate: a social network of scientist and invaluable hotbed of research findings, or Stephen Leguillon’s La Belle Assiette lets over 550 freelance gourmet chefs help you recreate a fine dine experience right at your home for a nominal fee.

And the Start-up Economy is a reality not just for the corporate world, but government, non-government and even SME’s all over who are embracing this new way of conducting business in the connected world.

The real world keeps getting real for our business

The next generation of Don Drapers need to be self-starters, just the way their GenZ clients and consumers are shaping up to be. They will need to rebuild creative businesses that thrive in beta perpetually, where Prototyping replaces the Big Idea.

A truth of our times that aptly gets reflected in Alvin Toffler’s statement ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Surely, our hunger to adapt will determine the non-starters in the Start-up Economy.

The writer is Lowe Malaysia’s strategy planning director Sailesh Wadhwa.

(Photo courtesy: Mad Men Facebook page)