Multiple Agencies, One Common Goal
The art of working with multiple agencies.
FUSE is sometimes the "other woman" at the client-agency table...or wife #2 depending on which culture you're from.
FUSE is sometimes the “other woman” at the client-agency table… or wife #2 depending on which culture you’re from.
Our focus in the marketing space often means we sit at the table with mass, PR and media agencies. And in case you’ve never noticed, agencies can be a touch competitive to say the least. Sometimes, this combination works in an incredibly collaborative and rewarding way… other times it’s incredibly painful for both client and agency. So, how, when and why does it work best? A client recently asked me this question and here are some of my thoughts.
The benefits of working with multiple agencies in a “best-in-class” model (collective of agencies each known for a specific skill/talent all coming together) are well known and offer smart way of managing the ever complex needs of marketing across all mediums and disciplines. The problems with this model is ensuring a) a collective set of marketing goals is being achieved, and b) one brand voice is being presented consistently to consumers. One of the biggest issues is territorialism on behalf of agencies: The old lines between what was “above the line” and “below the line” are all blurred and it’s a bit of a blood bath to see who will come out with the ever prized “digital” and “social media” work (not to mention direct, experiential and promotion).
FUSE has done very well in this multi-agency model because we’re pretty good at playing fair and never claim to do it all, so we view partner agencies as complimentary versus competitive. Here are my tips for clients on how to best manage in this space.
- When selecting agencies, look for agencies who are comfortable working with other agencies. It’s easy to find out… just ask. And ask for examples where they’ve partnered with another agency.
- Clarify and publish which agency does what – ideally with the annual plan. Doing this will remove competitive territorialism between your roster of agencies and let people get focused on completing their assignments in a safe, more collaborative environment.
- Assign one integration point person at each agency – make this person accountable for keeping the lines of communications open between all agencies.
- Facilitate a structure for collaboration between all your agencies. With one client, we have quarterly planning sessions where the client and all agencies come together to build out the plan. Each agency takes a turn hosting. And the client insists all egos are checked at the door… all ideas on their business can be shared together.
- When briefing a major program or initiative, brief all agencies together – same room, same time. And then, to make this even more effective, request a joint-agency presentation when it’s time to show creative. This forces the agencies to work together up front… before you see the ideas. It takes an extra 7 – 10 days up front, but saves lots of time on the back end.
- Finally, include an inter-agency collaboration score in their annual performance reviews. Make this a metric by which they are measured and it will drive home the importance.
Some of the most rewarding campaigns I have ever been a part of came out of a multi-agency model. It truly allows a client to tap into the agencies that know their specific stuff best. When everyone is aligned and in a collaborative and safe environment, ideas flourish. And yes, it requires a certain amount of planning… but no more time than a one-stop-monolithic agency would take working through their layers of process… and this model generally costs a lot less. Try it… you’ll love it.
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