Don't let the politics of creativity hamper your campaign

In the past decade or so, we've seen a blurring of the boundaries between disciplines and an understanding that so-called 'creative agencies' don't have a monopoly on good ideas.

Smart brands know that creative can and should come from anywhere, and the best campaigns are truly integrated, allowing a strong thought to run through them like a stick of rock.

But here's the thing.

It's a lot easier to talk about the concept of integrated and cross-agency co-operation than to actually deliver the goods.

Why should that be?

Well, in a word, it's politics. I could say egos, roster rivalries or a lack of leadership, but the truth is it's all of these and a lot more.

For what it's worth, here are a few observations from the sharp end of creative integration and cross-agency working.

When agencies are asked to work together to develop a campaign, there are usually three ways to go.

First, the lead agency develops a core thought and the rest support this idea through the line to deliver maximum impact. Second, everyone is asked to respond to the same creative brief and the client chooses the best idea, which then gets played through. Or, on some occasions, everyone is put together to come up with an idea they all like.

In my experience, all three can and do work – but only if the politics of creativity don't get in the way first.

Regardless of the route, there are some simple but important guidelines that client and agencies can set down to ensure success.

It's vital that everyone understands the rules of engagement and the client sets these out very clearly.

If you want a creative shoot-out with the prize of delivering the campaign going to the winning agency, then you have to make this clear from the start. It's a strange approach, given that you've presumably got a range of specialist agencies on your roster for a reason, but at least if you make it clear, there can be no room for debate.

A far better approach would be to first let everyone know that, regardless of where the idea comes from, they will all have a role in execution and the resources to deliver in their channel.

Ideally, you would also stress that they have the freedom to take the core thought and make it work for their channel, rather than being forced to mimic the literal execution or, worse still, 'amplify' it.

What might work in a 30-second TVC, or ad-funded programming, might not work elsewhere.

Of course, the smartest thing to do is to park egos at the door and build a cross-agency team that can bring the best of their disciplines together for the good of the brand.

When you start truly working together, you find ways to make paid content more shareable, earned stories more visible, and live experiences come to life digitally. You create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Gerry Hopkinson is founder and chief executive of Unity

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