11/19/2014 07:42 pm ET Updated Jan 19, 2015

Co-ops for Creative Diversity

The expansive community of YouTube creators is an inspiration for the advertising industry -- they help each other, they work together. For example, YouTube influencer and singer/songwriter Kurt Hugo Schneider has garnered nearly five million subscribers through cross promotion and co-creation with other YouTube creators to cover the latest hits and even produce original music. His content strategy has fostered a healthy, collaborative culture that takes advantage of the platform's unlimited shelf space -- shelf space where everyone is working for more prominent positioning and subscribers. YouTube is a dynamic frontier of competition and collaboration when done right, one that can inform and shape the future of how people work in creative co-opetition.

Today dawns a new age of partnership for the ad industry -- these challenging times call for innovation through collaboration. From walking into a retail experience all the way through advocating and self-reflecting about a brand, every area of the media landscape requires an informed, expert strategy, and that necessitates new ways of working. It necessitates a new level of co-operation, as no one can be an expert in everything and yet still make that special something.

Industry partnerships, or co-operatives, emerge after acknowledging a common ambition toward overall improvement for both advertisers and people. Each party willingly commits to creating a new way to work together, rather than plugging and playing into each other's old ways. They integrate forces to build on strengths and uniquely create work that will not only accelerate their individual brands, but also advance the greater community and landscape. Some would call it open sourcing; we call it "open creation."

We at Leo Burnett recently established a first-of-its kind co-op with social publishing giant The Huffington Post to offer our clients unique participation opportunities. Through shared values, cross-team collaboration, data sharing and creative brand building, together we will create content to drive cultural conversations and participation at scale for several of our clients.

The natural evolution of the industry is to be able to understand and make opportunities from the creative implications of behavioral shifts caused by tech and media platforms. Brand competition has expanded outside product or service categories to include the entirety of one's social network. Everyone can publish, promote and create. Channels are completely oversaturated, however each beckons additional opportunities for brand differentiation and authentic participation. In order to take advantage of the rapidly changing world of communications, the industry needs to co-operate and solve for an increasing demand for creative diversity.

The requirement for creative diversity -- variance of thinking, experiences and different ways of looking at the world -- has increased tenfold with the rapidly changing digital world. Pure, unadulterated creativity is not fostered in an environment where the same people work within the same process. It quickly dies when best practices become common practices and big-idea thinking gives way to risk aversion. The industry cannot be re-created on the shoulders of these staid methods of working. The industry necessitates the power of three: client, partner and agency. Clients are looking to either disrupt a market or create a new one, and the advertising industry is that connector, enabler, tension tie breaker and realist who actually makes it happen.

Co-ops offer a chance to test-drive what inevitably lies ahead. However, it's going to take an incredible amount of time, a lot of learning and a sometimes-imbalanced amount of success and failure. In the future, the creative diversity of agencies will need to be more expansive than ever, and this is permission, a gateway into a new level of driving participation for clients.

Competitors, who may not appear as such today, could be partners of tomorrow. The industry needs to step up to the challenge of new ways of working and realize its unique strengths and capabilities, while recognizing those of possible partners. This will help to build, one by one, a changed industry. By working together, we can create new models that are a win/win for both.

After all, we're working with unlimited shelf space for creativity, so why not give it a try?