Frankly, the current way of working between marketing agencies and clients is in a state of flux, and we’re not sure what’s coming next. We’ve seen this before, but this time it’s different.
We know that for marketing agencies, adding value is no longer a price nor capability consideration—those are basics that should always be right. It’s now about genuinely understanding the way people are consuming information and adopting a structure that enables this understanding. Agencies who are in that state of mind are the perfect partners, poised to help clients get ‘fluent in tomorrow’ and win for the future.
Clients’ need for more value to cushion their businesses through the current economic uncertainty is the reason behind the changing way of working. From the lead agency model to the full-service agency and the latest way of working, the best of breed—we’re all looking into agency-client relationships with a fine-tooth comb. We know we need a bit of tension to push ourselves to deliver great work. We also know we don’t have much time for egos anymore; managing them is time- consuming and draining. So, where does that leave us? What is the future?
Rather than creating silos or finding a jack of all trades, I believe the future lies in creating a brains trust. This brings together different areas of expertise into one core team, with supporting teams who project-manage the execution of ideas. It’s a creative collective of specialists: from brand and communication strategists, digitally savvy people, content developers, PR specialists to TV-smart people. Everyone works together to come up with media-agnostic ideas that help grow brands across the gambit of client needs to meet set business objectives.
The problem with the brains trust, however, is that it can be expensive. You have highly paid resources doubling up, and the question is: Are clients prepared to pay for this, particularly at a time when budgets are being cut and economic uncertainty looms? In all honesty, some of them are and some are not. But that can be managed. What we do know is that clients are more willing to pay a premium for good thinking than they are for the people who facilitate processes. It’s the thinking that provides value and uplifts their business. That’s not to undermine the people who action the thinking; they’re critical, too, but that’s not the point of this discussion.
Having great thinking in one room, regularly working on client business, may increase pressure to perform, particularly if people come from different companies. We end up with a mini- pitch in every single brief. And maybe that’s not so bad: Perhaps that’s the edge needed to push ourselves and our clients to the next level.
But is this sustainable for teams, energy-wise? It’s an interesting development for leaders of agencies. The approach to talent management has changed to manage this. We make sure we don’t have the same people working at the same pressure at the same time. Otherwise, exhaustion sets in. We essentially periodise people the same way athletes rest and work, to ensure quality of work. Playing only one A-Team will work if you’re buying them pizzas every night for a week—but after week three, that wears a bit thin.
The current uncertainty in the global socio-economic landscape presents us with the opportunity to rethink our way of working. Consumers are at the most dynamic we’ve ever experienced; budgets are much smaller—yet business key performance indicators are more demanding and more specific.
Our way of working needs to change to one that guarantees a shared value for both the client and the agency business.
The brains trust approach will get us closer to that sweet spot.