I read with interest Debbie Klein’s perspective on ‘Why integration is so much more than matching luggage’ in Campaign last week (19th November). In the same edition Andy Pearch’s article ‘Agency/client relationships’ stated “For clients, the big issue remains integration – with calls for more collaboration between agencies.” I totally concur with both of them and would like to offer some further suggestions based on my experience (working as a facilitator in this specific field) on how to run successful multi-agency projects.
The key reason for less than optimal integration is man’s innate desire for territory. All agencies are boundaried systems and people will naturally feel more attached to their agency (and its personal agendas) than a multi-agency project team. In the current climate, no agency wants to lose a valuable revenue stream so will each be highly competitive. Agencies are also culturally wired to want to create their own work. So no surprise when agencies find it difficult to all agree on one idea and execution!
The client likewise is finding it increasingly difficult to find the time to manage multi-agency projects – let alone the politics and decision making it’s producing.
Thus many project teams are failing to deliver the anticipated quality from using experts in each field – sadly 2+2+2+2+2 = 9.
So what are some of the ways to better release the potential of the expertise within each agency?
Below, are some suggestions:
- Have a shared higher mission, vision and values – People will coalesce around a goal if it has a higher personal purpose for them. Thus it’s critical to get all the separate agencies (and client) to identify themselves as one team, working towards a shared goal.
- Set up rules in advance – You can’t play any game without rules, so likewise rules are critical to set before the start of the creative process. How will the lead creative idea be decided? How will the team deal with differences? Before any brief or any discussion of strategy, the team must first come together to discuss processes and protocols.
- Strong managerial skills – The lead person needs to be naturally gifted at working well with people (It’s more about managing a team than leading since it’s a co-operative process). S/he needs a strong ability to listen, empathise, motivate as well as the strength to make clear decisions.
- Getting the right people on the bus – Borrowing from Jim Collin’s Good to Great, it’s critical to get the right people in the right roles. Individualism, competitiveness and collectivism are personal values. Thus one needs to ensure all members of the team are the type of people who want to work with others, and respect each other’s skill sets.
- Develop one brief – If people are working off different briefs, then its much more likely one will get different work. This needs to include the higher level marketing goals. Ultimately, the brief will need to lead to one central creative idea that everyone understands and abides to.
- Get to know the Creative Directors – they are the critical ‘gatekeeper’ of the creative output from an agency. If they understand the vision, you have a better chance of consistency.
- Give it time – There are no short cuts to getting great work. This does need to be the client’s key project (and thus other lesser projects dropped or given to others).
- Create an environment for people to be heard– It’s critical to create places and times where the teams can come together to share, talk, and critically to listen openly to each other. This builds understanding and respect which will help bond the team.
- RACI – Have absolute clarity over which agency does what (to avoid duplication and critically to reduce ‘territorial’ shift). It also helps to take away the fear of losing their revenue stream, so reducing the tendency towards excess (unhealthy) competitiveness. This does beg the question ‘Who should develop the central creative idea?’ Different models exist, most commonly either having appointed an initial lead agency or hear everyone’s idea and then make a decision (either democratically or client/research deciding). My personal belief is that if one properly manages this team, a collective approach will lead to a more engaged, motivated and creative team.
- KPI’s & Bonuses– We are driven by what we get rewarded (/punished) for. Thus it’s critical to measure and set bonuses that are tied to central objectives, along with such criteria as working well with the other agencies.
Clearly, these 10 principles simplify a complex, ever evolving process. There are also many who believe the changing face of communications strategy means a less prescriptive, ‘single focused’ approach best suits the development of a dialogue with consumers. Thus every brand will have a slightly different take on things and thus require a personalized process. That said many of these principles (especially those to do with team building) will still remain relevant.
Debbie Klein summed it up better than I can: “You have to start inside your own head”.