Whose idea is it anyway?

Product design co-creating with advertising agencies can ensure brand consistency success, says Caspar Thykier

We started advertising agency Campbell Doyle Dye for three reasons: the importance of relationships, the scarcity of talented creatives and the power of good ideas to move people and sell stuff.

The fact is, you’re only as good as the strength of your client relationship; your client relationship is only as good as the success of your last idea; and your last idea is only as good as the talent of the people who made it. These three principles produce famous results that work. It’s not only true of client relationships, but also critical to the way design and advertising agencies must work in the future.

Product design and advertising have never been so inseparable and so important to business success. Yet rarely do the two meet in strategy discussions or in company structures. Where they are unified, you tend to find category thought-leaders, such as Apple Computer, Innocent, Orange and First Direct. Why? Because a great idea should translate across the whole business and have tonal consistency across all consumer touch-points.

Is it such a surprise that agencies are creeping into the design space and vice versa? Not really. Should they collaborate more? Undoubtedly. It’s stupid enough that agencies and media agencies aren’t under the same roof (although this is now changing again). It’s just as odd that design and agencies don’t co-create.

Advertising and design are separate disciplines. There can be the cross-fertilisation of ideas, but, ultimately, the skills, experience and training required of each, from a creative standpoint, are quite separate.

So should there be a single agency that houses advertising and product design? No. Why? Because the most talented creative people thrive on residing in the top independent shops. We should be looking towards a model based on collectivism and partnership: a fellowship of like-minded independent agencies, driven by a single ambition.

There are two reasons for supporting the collectivist approach. First, this ridiculous state of affairs where we are paid for advertising and design by the hour, like a factory, rather than for ideas and intellectual property, like a consultancy. Adding additional services, within a single agency, quickly gets subsumed into the existing fee and ‘scope of work’, without the appropriate level of additional income that it demands.

It is viewed as incremental business without a pitch and thus argued that any incremental income should be discounted. As a separate entity, it’s a separate P&L, bottom line and cost. Where there can be synergies and benefits for all (agencies and client included) is in the account management and planning function.

Which leads to my second point. The ideal should be one team, driven by one business objective, leading to one communications brief that all the disciplines share at the outset. This should be briefed into one streamlined account team, to come up with one integrated campaign thought to work from. This single team can take advantage of the creative specialisms of each of the agencies involved, to generate the best ideas from this single start-point. It’s a simple hub-and-spoke model, totally dependent on three things: relationships, talent and good ideas.

We’ve begun by creating a hub-and-spoke model at CDD. We’ve launched Sherlock, an independent media agency housed in CDD’s offices, as a joint venture with media agency PHD, but with its own profit-and-loss statement and its own business targets. We have a separate design studio (CatSix) and editing facility (The Den) with its own performance targets. We’ve created an affiliation with Traffic, a best-in-class gaming agency based in Scotland, and we have strong relationships with CHJM and Agency Republic in direct marketing and on-line. We’ve brought this model to Mercedes-Benz and used it, successfully, in our recent Invesco Perpetual pitch win.

The final leap to co-creation is the ultimate step in our role as IP creators and value agents. The time is coming when we flip the traditional client-agency relationship and become brand-owner, rather than supplier. It’ll be us outsourcing sales functions, using our marketing skills at the core of the business, rather than the periphery.

There’s enough room for advertising and design agencies to work together in exciting ways, to build new relationships, foster new talent and reach better ideas, producing new revenue streams. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Caspar Thykier is managing director of Campbell Doyle Dye


• Category thought-leaders, such as Apple Computer and Innocent, have successfully unified product design and advertising

• Brands should have tonal consistency across all consumer touch-points, through collectivism and partnership

• Drive to change culture of per-hour payment for advertising and design

• Hub-and-spoke model can create separate divisions with separate accounts and business targets

• Agencies should be brand-owners, rather than suppliers

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