The Secret Marketer on agency relationships

Lots of time with the agencies this week and a mixed bag of progress. There appears to be a very direct correlation with the quality of my brand managers and the quality of work coming out of the agencies. Some might say that it is down to the quality of the brief itself, but I have seen and approved all of the documents myself and I suspect that the real difference is down to whether the brand managers have been able to champion their brands and inspire the agency into doing great work for them.

Get people onside, treat them with respect and they go the extra mile for you. Sounds obvious, but how often do we spend copious amounts of time naval gazing over minutiae on the brief rather than investing a little extra time motivating the agency? I am a big believer in good quality briefs. Rubbish in rubbish out, as they rightly say. But I have also often seen great briefs and poor work, due largely to the fact that there is not enough chemistry and goodwill.

The more senior I have become in marketing, the less marketing I get to do. I now spend my time managing a team, managing stakeholders and playing a coaching role. I can’t complain, but would be lying if I said I didn’t miss aspects of day-to-day brand management life. I therefore look forward to the key agency milestone meetings and to the presentation of creative work. It is a rare joy and escape from my general management life. I’ve been doing this for many years now, but the anticipation of creative work being presented still floats my boat.

“The anticipation of creative work being presented still floats my boat”

That said, the preamble is sometimes so long and painful that it can turn joy into despair. What is it about agencies and preamble? Do they see it as justification for their fees or are they sponsored by PowerPoint? After at least 90 minutes of painful foreplay and rationale this week, our advertising agency finally presented its work. Well rumour has it they did. I think I may have lost the will to live by that point. Sadly, the work was underwhelming – it just about made sense after the benefit of ridiculous amounts of pre-positioning, selling and justification, but I suspect that if consumers were to see this without all of the sideshow they won’t really get it.

In my experience, when agencies have cracked great creative work their preamble is remarkably short. The next time you are sitting through slide 78 of a painful build-up, get ready to be disappointed.

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