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Manchester Digital: Digital Revolution (Part 2)

Agencies have built Manchester’s digital sector into one of the major contributors to the regional economy, an economy now larger than some countries – but what are their future?

As skills diversify, old practices become obsolete and talent moves in-house at many major organisations, agencies are having to fight harder for their share of the digital pound.

Against this background, Nicky Unsworth from BJL and Jon Kershaw from Havas Media took to the stage at the Digital Revolution conference to speak up for the role of the agency in 2016.

Jon Kershaw spoke of a shift away from paid content and towards what he described as creating ‘meaningful experiences’ for clients and their audiences.

Nicky Unsworth, meanwhile, insisted it was essential for agencies to keep up with the pace of change and be selective about which new trend, development or innovation was worth them skilling up in versus outsourcing to a partner agency.

Partnerships are vitally important to the progression and growth of agencies, insisted David Edmundson-Bird, from Manchester Metropolitan University, as is identifying the right talent emerging into the workplace.

Completing the speaker panel was the highly engaging Aaron McGrath, from Microsoft’s Bing Ads, and his take on what agencies bring to the digital sector was pretty much against the grain of common thinking.

“The obsession with attribution,” he said “is stifling creativity and driving people away from the industry.”

Instead, he said, creative thinking should be prized in agencies, as should curiosity, rather than a maths graduate with the ability to understand complex data or analytics.

“Targeting is like shooting fish in a barrel,” said McGrath. “Sooner or later, you’re going to run out of fish.”

The final word went to Manchester Met’s David Edmundson-Bird, who passed on the advice to agency owners and workers that he also delivers to his many students.

“The skills to have are something that is going to land you a job tomorrow – and keep you in a job for life.”

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