I’ve been on the road a lot lately, talking with clients and participating in industry events from PR to marketing and advertising. Everywhere I’ve been, I have heard a clear refrain: "Tear down the silos. The days of the old agency model are over."
Call it convergence, integration, or blurred lines. The fact is there is a revolution happening, and it’s client-driven. Brands are looking for the smartest thinkers with the best solutions – regardless of the type of agency. They need teams who can navigate the growing fragmentation of audiences and channels, and the escalating demand for relevant content.
The retainer. AOR status. The days of a 30-second spot or one-off promotion standing on its own are gone. As PepsiCo’s Brad Jakeman sternly put it at the Association of National Advertisers’ recent Masters of Marketing conference, there’s no room or tolerance for those with their heads in the sand. PR folks might snicker and say, "Those ad guys are in trouble." But we’re in the same boat. Clients don’t care where ideas come from. They just want ones that work.
The time has come for a new way of thinking and operating – one that transcends the old holding company model. Intense competition between agencies only breeds distrust and inefficiency, and it’s definitely not translating into value for the client.
In the age of convergence, it’s not about competition, but about establishing a culture of collaboration. Clients are yearning for diversity of ideas. For agencies of all shapes, sizes, and expertise, it’s time to deliver holistic solutions.
Two years ago, Mitchell became a part of Dentsu Aegis, a new global network of PR, media, digital, and creative services. We saw the promise of a model that drives innovation by connecting agencies into a larger network built on collaboration. Non-competing global brands, additive and complementary capabilities, and one P&L for the client. Our operating model goes beyond "horizontal thinking" or "global alignment." It’s structured to drive and incentivize collaboration across agencies and borders.
We believe this model will move our industry into the future. It’s not easy to build a real community or to set aside competition and share opportunities. It’s counterintuitive to disrupt yourself. But the fundamentals of collaboration can be applied by any agency, anywhere. Here are a few principles that can work for everyone.
Put the client first. Constantly ask yourself, "What is in the best interest of the client? What will help their brand break through?" Find the expertise and partners needed to deliver the best solutions possible.
Form your own alliances. You don't have to be part of a network model to be collaborative. Many agencies are building their own relationships, both formal and informal, to serve clients.
Know your natural partners. Who can complement your strengths and add value to what you offer clients? Seek those who can amplify what you already bring to the table.
Build relationships of trust. Are you willing to share risk and resources? Are you open and transparent in your communications? Be flexible. Jump in or stand back as needed.
Be willing to give and take. It’s not just about the work you want, it’s also about what you have to give. Establish a spirit of reciprocity. "I do for you. You do for me."
As an industry, we’re in danger of choking out the very things our clients demand from us – creativity and innovation. Collaboration is our way forward. It's the only model that delivers in the age of convergence.
Elise Mitchell is the CEO of Mitchell Communications Group and the Dentsu Aegis PR Network