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Marketers are not getting the best bang for their marketing communications bucks – and here`s the secret ingredient

Globally, we see a relentless drive for more data, more measurement and greater accountability. And rightly so, as the pressure mounts on CMOs to demonstrate RoI.

But our experience suggests that this is only one side of the equation.

CMOs should also be judged for the level of investment they make, in time and effort, to make sure that only the best ideas and executions are deployed behind their marketing dollars?

In our experience, CMOs who excell at delivering great, business-changing work share certain characteristics:

  • True alignment between their organisation and their communications partners, based on mutual trust and respect
  • Developing and honing great agency briefing skills
  • Building and nuturing a deep partnership with their agencies
  • Encouraging open collaboration amongst all stakeholders – on both sides
  • Choosing the right/best people to engage with their external partners
  • Rewarding their agencies fairly and recognising exceptional performance
  • Remembering that recognition is sometimes as important as reward

Enduring relationships produce the best results

Sadly, in our view, hardly a week goes by without the announcement of the demise of another long term marketer/agency relationship.

Good news for Search and Selection consultants, but potentially bad news for the brands and companies concerned.

These announcements mirror a  trend towards shorter and shorter client/agency relationships. The global average is estimated to have reduced to less than three years.

But economists tell us that short-termism is increasingly regarded as flawed, particularly in the light of the various financial crises where “quarteritis” has been identified as the fatal ingredient.

All of this in stark contrast to our strongly held belief that the best relationships, usually enduring ones, produce the best work and the best business results.

There is a strong correlation between award winning work and strong business results

The Gunn Report, based on exhaustive global studies to track results for the most awarded communications campaigns, is recognised as the global currency for measuring creative achievement by agencies.

As far back as 1996, Donald Gunn`s report “Do award Winning Commercials Sell?” proved conclusively that, in over 80% of cases, the award winning campaigns produced above average business results. Something creatives had known, intuitively, for many years!

These findings have been reinforced by more recent research from the UK`s Institute of Practioners in Advertising [ IPA] and Thinkbox [ the UK`s television marketing body], in conjunction with The Gunn Report, which revealed the direct correlation between strong advertising creativity and business success.

The study shows that the most creatively awarded advertising campaigns are 11 times more efficient at delivering business success.

The message to marketers must be; partner with your communication agencies to create the kind of processes and environments that encourage and inspire creative excellence.

History will show that the most successful CMOs had a special ability to get the best out of their communications agency partners, recognising the value of enduring relationships, designed to achieve outstanding results through outstanding work.

A standout example of this would be Scott Bedbury, credited with developing the relationship between Nike and its agency, Wieden Kennedy, that brought us the enduring and compelling “Just Do It “ campaign, which helped grow Nike`s sales from under $1 billion       to $ 5 billion on his marketing watch.

What does it take to achieve creative excellence?

There is no magic bullet. Each individual [or team] must decide what works best for them and their communications agency partners. But there are learnable techniques. Based on Roth Observatory International`s worldwide experience, here are a few suggestions ….

Ensure true alignment

Put in huge effort, from the start of a new relationship or an important new project, to make sure that there is a clear, common understanding of goals and expectations of each other and the process to get there. And write it down!

Often a dedicated Alignment Workshop, involving the key parties on both sides, is time well spent.

If you want a great dish, start with the right ingredients

Put as much effort into producing a great brief as you expect the agency to put into producing a brilliant campaign. Make sure all the necessary information is provided but don`t ‘over egg the omelette’ with mountains of facts that do nothing to set the creative juices flowing.

And try to be single minded about the outcome you are seeking.

Is it brand awareness? Is it attitude shift? Is it frequency of purchase? Be crystal clear about what you want and communicate it clearly.

As the late creative luminary Norman Berry once said: “Give me the freedom of a tightly defined strategy”.

For major projects, present your brief with some “theatre” to inspire the creative team. If you are about to launch a new beer brand why not do your briefing in a pub or at the brewery. And drink some of the stuff while you are about it!

Create a strong partnership with your agency

Agencies are creative hot houses stocked with bright, ambitious people. Unsurprisingly, they bridle at the notion of being considered “suppliers”. It demeans what they do or are capable of achieving for your brands. Just think of your own business or personal life – don`t the best results always come from true partnerships?

Collaboration is key

The late Peter Drucker, management consultant extraordinaire,  put it like this…..“ The most important shift in business today is from ownership to partnership and from individual tasks to collaboration”

Our Relationship Warrior must have the ability to generate this ‘collaboration’ within his/her own team, between his/her team and their agencies and between their agencies.

Casting is also key

It takes a special talent to manage, motivate and inspire those that inhabit agencies! Recognise this and get your casting right.

By this we mean make sure that your own marketing team knows how to work with agencies. Training can definitely help but starting with people who have a natural talent for getting the best out of their agency is a massive advantage. Techniques such as brain psychometric testing can be useful in selecting the most appropriate people to engage with your agency partners.

Work hard at achieving fairness in the reward your agency receives

Most marketers believe they pay their agencies too much. And, surprise, surprise, most agencies believe that they are not paid enough. Tough market conditions right now are making it even more difficult to find a fair balance.

Most reputable agencies are prepared to put profit at risk provided the performance-based upside is fair, clearly defined and agreed in black and white up front.

The skill, for both parties, is in coming up with appropriate performance metrics and measurement methodologies. Performance based remuneration [PBR] is still evolving and requires specialist skills.

Look beyond monetary rewards

Just like the rest of us, agencies [and creative people in particular] thrive on recognition. Celebrate their award winning exploits with them. The odd letter of congratulations and thanks, or a celebratory dinner or function, can work wonders.

It all comes back to that magic word “partnership”. The modern, connected and transparent world is all about relationships and you can only profit if you use the same techniques for your communication agency partners [or any other important partner for that matter] that you do for your best customers – and your own people:

  • Align your expectations
  • Build mutual respect and trust
  • Brief inspiringly
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Cast wisely
  • Reward fairly
  • Remember recognition and praise
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