Head of Product, Sam Hegg on How Agencies Can Be Like LA


LA is emerging as the new hotbed for startups because it is a melting pot for different industries. National Head of Product, Sam Hegg looks at how agencies can capitalise on these changes.


What do Oculus, Dollar Shave Club, Tinder, Snapchat & Maker Studios all have in common? They, along with 1,000 more start ups, originated in LA. Yet the centre of all things tech and ‘start-up’ has always been regarded as Silicon Valley on the outskirts of San Francisco. That was why I headed there last week for the Ad:Tech conference, ready to be exposed to the blurry yet exciting future of all things tech and advertising.

The exhibition floor, keynotes and panel debates covered familiar topics; the ongoing fight against digital ad fraud, how to fuse creativity with programmatic and predicting the future use of social media, wearables and data were all discussed. However, the last minute addition of a panel discussion at the end of the two days on why Ad:Tech will be in LA next year, not in San Francisco grabbed mine and many others’ attention.

It turns out, something I’m sure some of you may know already, that LA or ‘Silicon Beach’ as it has been termed, is in somewhat of a tech start up boom at the moment, evidenced by the examples I gave earlier. It’s the third biggest start-up city in the US behind SF and NY but is the fastest growing. So what’s happening out there?

Content. Culture. Tech.

One of the panel, DJ Skee, (I know!...but check out his bio here, its impressive!) nailed it when he said that “content is colliding with technology” and that culture is the driving force behind what breaks through….and its hard to dispute that LA is the centre of culture and content for the world. The panel painted a picture of this perfect storm right now in Santa Monica….Tech Schools like Irvine pumping out super smart kids, talent agencies mingling with media and ad agencies, major music, film and gaming companies becoming more collaborative and the super wealthy willing to take a punt on an idea.  There was also an observation that in LA, ideas come from a starting point of purpose and problem solving, whereas those in Silicon Valley start with a new technology. That may have been a biased view from an LA advocate but add year round sunshine to the mix and it all sounds bloody enticing doesn’t it!

The central concept of culture, content and tech really resonated with me though.  It is language we are driving through our business and with clients at Carat, evidenced by the keynote our global CEO, Doug Ray gave at the Festival of Media in Rome last month (watch here). He talks to the concept of brands moving from ‘category to culture’, so we can capture a disproportionate amount of attention for our brands. This mirrors what is happening in LA where start ups are redefining categories and my earlier reference to Dollar Shave Club is a great example of that.

So unless we all pack up our bags and head for the land of dreams, what can we apply here that can create a competitive advantage for our clients?...Well its about collaborating…

  • Start-ups in your neighbourhood. There are communities, hubs and networks happy to engage with us. Meet them, exchange ideas, share your clients’ business problems…

  • Get more upstream on content. Talk to the production houses and the talent, rather than just the distribution points.

  • Observe those that shape culture. It’s not hard as most are doing it through digital. As a father of an 8 year old, Alfie’s cultural anchors are the gaming vloggers on YouTube, not kids TV on a Saturday morning.

And for those who love being the one in their friendship group to share the next big thing, have a read of this article on what could be the next start up success out of LA…(how good does ‘The Black Tux’ service sound!).

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