I wish I had a penny for every time I have seen ‘partnerships’ or ‘collaborations’ between creative communications agencies disintegrate. Some collaborations are instigated by agencies with the best of intentions to present a ‘unified collective offering’ on a particular brand or piece of business. Others are thrust upon them in the form of appointed panels of preferred supplier lists.
Whether by design, or whether by the result of procurement process, clients and marketers need to be aware of some of the pitfalls when dealing with a number of agency partners.
As creative agencies are adapting to the ever-changing media landscape and diversifying their service offering to meet the demands of the new environment, so too is the cross-over of services between what would have previously been considered specialist agencies. This is most evident in the digital space.
The result? Agencies are increasingly blurring the lines between specialist and generalist agencies and thereby creating challenges for clients and marketers who manage panels of suppliers. Particularly as many clients themselves are managing leaner internal marketing teams with greater and more diverse responsibilities.
I think I have a far simpler view on the issue than most, and three simple suggestions clients may want to consider, to manage a healthy, collaborative group of partners:
A clear scope:
- Make absolutely sure that each agency is clear on their role and remit.
- Clearly articulate expectations around process and interactions between agencies.
- Any lack of clarity will almost certainly lead to at best, overlap and inefficiency (cost and time), and at worst, dysfunction and wastage.
Common focus and shared objectives:
- Each agency should share a common focus on best outcomes for the client’s brand and business. These are best expressed as measures of success, relevant KPIs and campaign metrics established up front in the relationship.
Lastly and most importantly, respect:
- This is not a characteristic often talked about (let alone demonstrated) in our industry.
- Respect for each other’s specialisations, skills and ideas. Appreciate and accept that there may be others at the table just as capable of contributing and making positive impacts in campaign development. Listen, learn and improve for a common purpose.
These rules might sound reasonably simple and fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised how often they’re overlooked. In short, if you’re managing a panel, agencies need to not be precious and clients need to be upfront and clear.
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