I hate my dog. I know that’s going to be divisive among the audience here, but let me explain why. He’s a miniature dachshund. He’s incredibly handsome. I can’t get down the street without hordes of children stopping me for a quick pat. He’s been bred this way, you see. Back in the UK where he was born, his mother was a winner at Crufts (a big dog show for strange people who like to do that kind of thing, for those that may not know). He’s been bred to be handsome. Oh, and also to fight badgers - Dachs is German for badger, in fact.
And what does all this mean for him? He’s beautiful. And highly emotionally unstable due to years of inbreeding to produce the desired characteristics of a badger hunter. Great in the forests of Bavaria. Less good in a three bedder in Balgowlah. He barks all the damn time and cocks his leg against the furniture. Please don’t tell my landlord.
Evolution never intended for him to exist. And nature doesn’t just abhor a vacuum, nature also hates those who don’t fit in their environment. And nature has a habit of weeding those out through the medium of? Disaster. Ask Darwin, ask Malthus. Those guys knew a thing or two about how and why things survived, or didn’t. Or maybe ask a dinosaur.
Here’s my, probably laboured, point. Disasters come and go. They really do, honest. We have a habit of viewing The Great Depression, the Influenza pandemic of 1918 and WW2, to name just a few, through the lens of, to our eyes, comedy inducing newsreel. But they were not comedy to those living through them. It couldn’t have been further from the actual reality. The human and environmental cost of those crises were incalculable. But what also emerged from those times were things like the National Health Service in the UK, the flu jab, nuclear power and supersonic flight.
Try to see Covid-19 as a disaster, yes, one with tragic implications, but also as a readjustment that will be, in the end, positive, especially for businesses and people like ours who thrive on creativity. Agency land does need to change. We’re not quite a sausage dog, but we have probably evolved into entities that are no longer entirely fit for purpose in the current environment.
I don’t believe that Covid-19 has been quite the economical bloodbath that perhaps we thought it might be. So far, at least. But it’s been close enough to be scary. So, we must adapt to stay valuable. Build the capabilities that clients need, find emotional connection with consumers in the old and new ways available to us and make ourselves easy to buy.
Those are, to my mind, the keys to staying the right side of evolution’s inexorable march.
(No Dachshunds were harmed during the writing if this piece)
- Russell Hopson, group managing director at M&C Saatchi Australia