How Marketers Can Work With Integrated Agency Teams

The movement toward hiring specialty agencies for tightly defined projects poses a fundamental challenge for bringing marketing together. It shifts the pressure on integrated marketing to teams composed of people from multiple agencies.

Just as they’re getting more essential, integrated agency teams (IATs) are getting tricker to manage. Marketers need to balance specialists whose roles increasingly overlap. They need to broaden information sharing to boost performance across disciplines. And they need to achieve collaboration without blowing up the timeline and budget.

As a member of eight IATs, I can see a new best practices playbook emerging. Here are some:

Assign a strong IAT client leader.It takes a strong, experienced client to manage large, diverse IATs. Department-specific client leaders (e.g., brand, PR, shopper) can’t do double duty; they need to focus on their individual priorities. IAT success depends on a client leader who enforces overall business needs and the client’s expectations of agencies, and makes final decisions. They can’t play Switzerland.  

Define agency roles tightly.
Make your AOR the project manager for the IAT. Let them lead the working discussion to agree on agency roles, behavioral rules, and agency hours. That establishes the parameters and trust you need for honest, efficient collaboration, such as the retail agency providing shopper data to refine media targeting. Importantly, this also eliminates the impulse for agencies to compete over scope and cross-sell.



Establish sequential timelines. Some IAT members need assets earlier than others to meet critical deadlines, sometimes before the IAT strategy is finalized. If the strategy can’t be greenlit beforehand, it’s important to assign and release the long-lead assets and adjust the overall campaign around them.

Get to the work fast. It can take two months to assemble an IAT, build the timeline and share a central brief with the agencies. The magic happens in agency work sessions, so plan them from the start to get agencies collaborating right away.

Make the most of process time. Kick off IATs in person. You’ll clarify agency contributions and roles, and forge deeper bonds between agencies and clients, at levels a video call with 30-plus team members can’t establish. And you’ll go a long way toward keeping agency hours within budget.

Increasingly, business success takes more than the sum of marketing parts. Get IATs right, and marketing will get its magic back.

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