Secret Marketer: Delegating could see your best ideas end up in the bin

For client marketers, one of the great things about agencies is that they usually tell you what you want to hear, despite a few home truths proving more beneficial sometimes.

To address this I enjoy catching up with the managing directors of my lead agencies for dinner every now and again to see how the land really lies (although that is a good argument against integrated agencies – fewer free dinners).

Last week was one such occasion. The MD of one of my agencies and I enjoyed a rather lovely meal in a relatively posh place (not in London’s trendy Soho), washed down with a couple of bottles of red that ended up costing a lot more than the food itself…I digress.

After the usual pleasantries, and a state of the nation review of how our respective businesses are trading, I asked him a few rather pertinent questions about some of the individuals on my team who have more direct contact with his agency than I do.

Not surprisingly, the evening started with everyone being a legend, but as the wine flowed, I got a clearer view of who I need to keep a closer eye on.

What became brutally apparent – but perhaps of no surprise – is that those individuals who are given a free rein by me, but are a bit of a ‘loose cannon’, are the most loved by the agency. And those in whom I put my utmost trust are seen as blockers and get in the way of the agency presenting great work. As we spoke more, I tried to persuade the MD that he needed to listen more to the latter group, but maybe I needed to encourage more behaviours across my team akin to the former.

I reflected more on a similar dinner, albeit several months prior, with a different agency MD, whom I had pushed to present more disruptive creative. Her response had been that every time they did, they were knocked back by my team, such that it never got into the final pitches to me.

We, as CMOs, stand and fall on the quality of the creative work we put our names to on behalf of our brands, and especially how that work delivers business benefit. We cannot be everywhere, and we have to rely on our carefully chosen delegates to do the right thing in briefing and critiquing those campaigns as they go through the assessment process. But it does worry me whether we are leaving some of the best ideas on the cutting room floor, as our lieutenants make decisions on our behalf.

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