The Client / Agency Grail

What are you hiring your agencies to do? And, how are you rewarding them?

Until we reach a point where the creative agency is held accountable for the connections strategy, and the media agency is held accountable for the creative idea, we won't drive integrated solutions.

Too often, media plans are optimized in a vacuum without proper consideration toward optimizing the creative idea. Creative agencies are then charged with "filling the pipeline." Conversely, connections insights are given, but lip-service on the creative brief and the media agencies rarely work alongside the creative teams to draw an idea out across channels. While in the past this process may have somewhat worked, it's a recipe for disaster in a dynamic marketplace where medium/message are often one and the same.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to illuminate the benefit of integrated marketing solutions. So, what drives the breakdown? I think it boils down to a few key issues:

1. We evaluate our marketing partners in isolation.



Did the copy test well? Did the digital plan meet drive-to-site benchmarks? Did the media plan efficiently reach the consumer? These are the right questions to ask when evaluating who sits at the table in the first place. Of course, we need to ensure that we have the best possible players on the team. But beyond the initial draft, individual stats are worthless. What matters most is the collective team output that can be expressed and evaluated solely as an integrated marketing plan.

We should hold the collective team accountable to one thing and one thing only: Did it deliver a compelling brand idea that traveled seamlessly across all brand touchpoints and that ultimately solved the key business issue facing the brand? The integrated solution is all that matters. And in the case of integrated marketing, the whole far exceeds the sum of the individual parts!

2. We develop separate work-streams based upon commitment timelines.

How many times have you heard the excuse: "We have to approve the media plan in time for the upfronts." Or: "In-store promotions require planning well in advance of the copy development cycle." This is nothing new. In fact, one of the few predictable aspects of our business is the timing of various commitment cycles. Despite all the press about the upfronts going away, they're still here. And they happen at the same time of year, every year!

Furthermore, retailers' shelf-planning cycles are set and very well-communicated to marketers who occupy the shelf. So, why the big surprise? It is incumbent upon marketers to move integrated planning upstream so that commitments can happen with the integrated idea in place.

3. We rarely see the whole picture.

We look at integrated solutions in bits and pieces. When was the last time you evaluated both a creative and a media plan recommendation in the same meeting? I am not talking about the token part of a creative presentation where the media person stands up and describes how the creative idea will fit the media plan; rather, I am talking about a truly integrated idea that is co-opted by the creative minds of both the creative and media agencies.

When was the last time mainline and digital creative teams stood alongside each other and described how their idea can travel seamlessly across screens? When did you last see an idea both above and below the line at once? Finally, how many flowcharts does it take to see your integrated marketing solution at work?

I am proposing a change: marketers must do a better job of driving the "Power of One"

  • ONE upstream process that is driven by...
  • ONE integrated brief, which calls for...
  • ONE solution that is expressed as a powerful Brand Idea...that supports
  • ONE integrated marketing plan, whose impact will be measured by
  • ONE set of evaluation measures for the integrated team.
1 comment about "The Client / Agency Grail ".
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  1. Jason Deal from Initiative, November 30, 2009 at 12:09 a.m.

    I support the "Power of One". A lot of inertia in the system to be overcome.

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