Thinking and acting as one

Cross-network collaboration is an opportunity to learn more about different communications channels, says Jeremy Garbett

You may think cross-consultancy collaboration sounds like a great idea in principle, but is it worth the effort involved, if your business is already successful in its own right? True collaboration is not just about getting together for a quick brainstorm – it requires time and dedication. There are cultural and operational differences that need to be fused together. Every agency and consultancy needs to gain an understanding of different disciplines, and each one has different timelines, ways of working and jargon to understand before embarking on a partnership.

So why would this investment be worth it? Clients’ marketing and design spends are no longer as clear cut as they used to be. Audiences are increasingly hard to reach through traditional marketing means and, as they become more media savvy and less trustful of brands, clarity of where budgets should be spent is much harder to achieve. Consultancies now need to provide clients with far more holistic solutions that present a blended approach – rather than simply an advertising campaign with bolt-on consultancy offerings or pitch candy.

This may seem like a large investment for communications groups in the short term, but the benefits in the long term can far outweigh the effort involved. Working in collaboration can help open your mind to the bigger picture. The need to think beyond your own creative discipline helps you become more efficient in your thinking. Your creative solutions will be more robust. The integrated solution requires you to consider the relevance of your ideas across diverse media. This broader approach will be of greater interest to your client and the consumer will receive a more powerful message across different communication channels.

Furthermore, exposure to other consultancies’ worlds strips away the mystique, so you can get beyond the jargon and expand your own skills. It also teaches you a respect for other creatives’ unique challenges and those of the client. This all helps to cement a constantly growing, long-term relationship.

So what you really need are good friends. At Jack Morton we have already developed meaningful relationships with many of our sister consultancies. For example, since January 2005, we have been working with Nokia Multi-Media division, alongside fellow Interpublic Group consultancies R/GA, Lowe, Draft and FutureBrand.

Nokia chose this route because it was seeking a network of experts who could instigate an integrated global launch platform for its N-series product in key markets around the world. It wanted all touch points of its brand designed, created and produced by one integrated team which thoroughly understood the objectives and target audiences. This could only be achieved through long-term, inter-consultancy, collaborative relationships.

Working in this way is not without its challenges. Inevitably, there is some overlap of skills and it requires clear definition of roles from the outset. Some players are territorial and there can be conflicting profit-and-loss issues. In our experience, it helps to have a team leader who is distinctly aware of all channels of communication and can apply them appropriately, to fulfil the client’s needs. All consultancy and agency players have a valid point of view across all media and should be entitled to express it. Clients don’t care where a good idea comes from, they just want great ideas, flawlessly and effectively implemented.

Protectionism is an outdated policy – clients spot it and don’t want it. Clients want the right ideas with the right value from their integrated team, that can be interpreted and driven through to various audiences with speed, precision and care. With one of our clients, we’ve developed an approach whereby on individual campaigns the creative lead is taken by different creatives from the different participating groups. This has worked well in ensuring a shared understanding of the entire approach, rather than a single discipline.

This is an important turning point in the communications industry – there is a fabulous opportunity for groups which have the determination and vision to be bolder and act more decisively across a whole number of communication channels. A confident consultancy will embrace collaboration, freely share their ideas and donate valuable time. Pull down those dividing walls, let the light in and enjoy the space.

Jeremy Garbett is managing director of Jack Morton Worldwide

CROSS-CONSULTANCY COLLABORATION:

• Truly understand your client’s business objectives and their audience

• Develop empathy and trust with fellow consultancies

• Map out collaboration and agree on fiscal terms

• Explore beyond the brief and push for the extra value that can be gained from integration

• Think 360 degrees in terms of channels of communication – visualise the touch points and the effect on audiences

• Check measurement is part of your process – do ‘sense checks’ and have inter-consultancy status meetings with senior management

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