How Marketers Can Encourage Greater Creative Value from Their Agencies (Part 2)

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Darren Woolley of TrinityP3. This is the second in a two-part series in which top CEOs spoke out on the top issues causing inefficiencies in marketing spend. Read Part 1 here.

For a recap of Part 1, here are the main issues causing inefficiencies in marketing spend:

1.         Poor briefing processes

2.         Misalignment of expectations

3.         Miscommunication

4.         Under-remuneration

5.         Flawed approval processes

6.         Different interpretations of creativity

7.         Challenging relationships

8.         Cultural clashes

Part 1 covered the first four, and today, I present what the CEOs had to say about issues 4 through 8. The agency CEOs I spoke with include (photo below; from left to right starting at the top): Peter Biggs, Chief Executive, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne; Ben Lilley, Chairman & CEO, McCann Worldgroup; Andy Pontin, CEO, Clemenger BBDO Sydney; Sudeep Gohil, CEO, Droga5 Australia; Nick Garrett, MD, Colenso BBDO NZ; Jaimes Leggett, CEO, M&C Saatchi Australia; Mark Green, CEO/Co-Founder, The Monkeys; and Chris Brown, CEO DDB Group Australia.

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Flawed approval processes

When it comes to feedback, the CEOs say to be cruel is kind.

“A quick no is a lot better than a slow maybe. By this I mean if you know an idea isn’t right then let your agency know immediately, good agencies know there are always better ideas out there but dragging something on for months is soul destroying and financially inefficient." – Nick Garrett, MD, Colenso BBDO NZ

But when providing feedback make sure you are solving the problem and not just changing the solution.

“Provide strategic, not creative, feedback – resist the urge to make creative changes, providing strategic guidance around areas requiring further development instead." - Ben Lilley, Chairman & CEO, McCann Worldgroup

“Judge the idea not the execution. Simple in words but very few are able to genuinely do this, its a real skill." – Nick Garrett, CEO, Colenso NZ

“Think ideas, not executions." – Jaimes Leggett, CEO, M&C Saatchi Australia

Because ultimately the idea is strategically on brief or it is not.

“Great ideas aren’t on brief, then leave it behind – great creatives write from the brief not to it." - Peter Biggs, Chief Executive, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

But your role is not to kill ideas, it is to see the value in the ideas.

“Don’t be the devils advocate. Work out how things can happen not what might go wrong." - Mark Green, CEO/Co-Founder, The Monkeys

And that means understanding your brand but, more importantly, your customers.

“An ability to put themselves in the shoes of the audience, rather than apply their own perspective. I’ve never seen a brief where the target audience is ‘mid-level marketing and product managers’, but this is the audience that reviews (and kills) most of the work." - Andy Pontin CEO, Clemenger BBDO Sydney

“Show you understand what makes people tick – empathy is a wonderfully strong emotion." - Peter Biggs, Chief Executive, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

The best way to get alignment around the strategy, and therefore the execution, is collaboration.

“Make key stakeholders in the business available at key briefing, brainstorming, review stages and executional stages, if required – including the media agency and any other key marketing partners." – Ben Lilley, Chairman & CEO, McCann Worldgroup

Different interpretations of creativity

At the core of the relationship between the marketer and their agency is the creative process and product.

“Stay focussed on the big idea – don’t be distracted by the details." - Chris Brown, CEO DDB Group Australia

“Embrace creativity. Show an interest. Not just in advertising creativity but broader creativity." – Mark Green, CEO/Co-Founder, The Monkeys

The creative process is fraught with risk, and huge rewards if you get it right.

“We would love clients to expect to be a little nervous in a healthy way about the best work – it’s natural and a good thing. The power of ‘I don’t know’ is amazing and by that I mean just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. So while we may not know how to make / do / execute something at the moment of presenting we will and you have to trust us." – Nick Garrett, MD, Colenso BBDO NZ

“Don’t restrain the agency, you can always pull them back but it is harder to push them out there." – Mark Green, CEO/Co-Founder, The Monkeys

“Be curious. Be bold. Accept risk." – Jaimes Leggett, CEO, M&C Saatchi Australia

One of the most difficult aspects of creativity is the lack of rules.

“Playing by the rules tends to be highly ineffective and inefficient." - Peter Biggs, Chief Executive, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

But at its best it is a co-creation process with both marketer and agency making a contribution.

“Get involved in the creative process, not just the creative solution – be available to review and discuss creative work in progress as it evolves." – Ben Lilley, Chairman & CEO, McCann Worldgroup

But the creation of the idea is not the end of the process.

“Believe in ideas and execution. An idea is the starting point. Once you see a good idea, try to take it from good to great." – Mark Green, CEO/Co-Founder, The Monkeys

Challenging relationships

The relationship with the agency should extend beyond account management and beyond marketing.

“Allow agencies to get access to all facets of your business and people. Only talking to and spending time with marketers won’t make the work better and it doesn’t give us them credibility when helping you sell thinking to stakeholders."

“The same is true for access to CEO’s and the executive teams…great agencies need to know what is keeping them awake." – Nick Garrett, MD, Colenso BBDO NZ

Remember that the agencies are experts too, so take advantage of this.

“A transparent relationship where agency accepts that client has superior expertise in some areas (product knowledge, commercial expectations etc.) and client accepts that agency has superior expertise in other areas (consumer insight, creative execution)." - Andy Pontin CEO, Clemenger BBDO Sydney

“Listen. Take advantage of the experts around you who are experts at what they do." - Mark Green, CEO/Co-Founder, The Monkeys

But if the relationship becomes challenging then look for the tension points.

“Release a cultural tension that no one else has realized." – Peter Biggs, Chief Executive, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

At the core of a productive relationship is one based on trust and mutual respect.

“Treat agencies as partners not suppliers." - Jaimes Leggett, CEO, M&C Saatchi Australia

“Trust the agency." - Sudeep Gohil, CEO, Droga5 Australia

Cultural clashes

For a creative industry it is clear that a positive approach delivers positive results.

“Show enthusiasm to do great work – this is highly motivating for the agency team." – Chris Brown, CEO DDB Group Australia

“Freedom from fear – no one does their best work under a cloud of panic or anxiety." – Chris Brown, CEO DDB Group Australia

“Try. It’s ok if you try and fail with brave ideas, but it’s not ok if you fail to try." – Mark Green, CEO/Co-Founder, The Monkeys

But the last word about creativity and relationship management is best summed up here.

“In a world of constant change and re-evaluation, it’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about being more interesting." – Peter Biggs, Chief Executive, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

These agency CEOs have a very clear and consistent view on how their clients work with them to encourage creativity. Clearly there is an opportunity to simply talk with your agency. What do you think?

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