PHD at Squared 2012: Agency collaboration within and without

Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Collaboration and Network: Collaboration is a buzzword in the industry at the moment. How do you see this operating on a daily basis both in and between agencies?

Some would argue that collaboration is not a buzzword at the moment; it has always been important and it has just become more of a ‘must have’ in the changing agency environment in order to ensure that coherent and high quality work is produced.

As the media landscape becomes more and more fragmented, the harder it’s going to be to collaborate successfully between agencies. For example, today social can sit within the remit of PR, media and creative agencies and clients need to be more prescriptive if they are to benefit from agencies working collaboratively and effectively together.

When we think about collaboration we really need to understand the type of client that we’re working with. There are two types of clients; those that allow agencies to take control and those that want to be in control. Clients that allow the agencies to take control trust them to work collaboratively together and come back to the client with great innovative work. However under these circumstances, naturally unhealthy friction can arise between agencies which if unmanaged, can jeopardise the success of the campaign.

The type of client that prefers to take control plays an integral role in the project. This requires much more work and effort for the client and it isn’t uncommon in these cases for the client to encourage a bit of what they view as healthy friction between the agencies. The idea behind this is that they believe it will produce better quality work as the agencies challenge and stretch each other.

At the end of the day, agencies are competing against each other and there is a natural urge for individual agencies to want to stand out and impress the client, and as a result there can sometimes be a reluctance to share. However, there really needs to be a mechanism in place to share best practice outside of your own agency group with other agencies. In addition, the quality of work produced could be improved if before starting a project, clients and agencies spend more time planning together, allowing for collaboration and clear integration.

There is the viewpoint that the IPA are already doing a great job in supporting focus groups within the industry to tackle difficult business issues and they provide a forum for agencies to mix and share ideas.

At OMG, our agencies work really well to share knowledge and support each other. For example PHD, Rocket and DRUM, all are very distinctive agencies but have a joined up leadership team that are happy to support each other. At OMG we have centralised functions that the agencies can maximise on such as Brand Science, Datascience, Annalect etc.

At PHD we also recognise that the perspective of people from different teams and groups can open up a channel of thought that you may not have considered and we’re encouraged to crowdsource, for example by using surveys and by leading open action planning sessions. In a similar vein, today technology cuts across boundaries so easily and simply that it would be a shame not to take advantage of colleagues sitting across the world, for example by using Skype.

We can also look at collaboration from a media buying/client perspective. For example, today in broadcast media it is not about sponsorship anymore, instead it is about partnerships. Partnerships are more than just associating a brand name with a particular TV show, it’s about enhancing the brand and using each other’s resources (both the brand and the media owner). In order to make the most out of a partnership for the client, it is essential that agencies’ investment teams work more closely together and fully utilise what they can do for the brand. For example, the X Factor is a huge TV show, but partnering with this show offers more than just buying TV ads spots; brands can utilise the show’s broader media offering (people catching up on VOD/using the mobile app, going to see the tour, interactions on social media etc).


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