If you are a client, the situation may sound familiar. You have the elder child. The traditional. He’s been getting all the love. The big assignments. Then sometime during his early adolescence, you decided he needed a younger sibling. Digital. It was cute at first. Digital gave your elder child some company, just as you had hoped. Digital played with all the banner advertising and hand-me-down assets. Then digital started asking for more expensive toys like overarching strategy and integrated campaigns.
As a client, you now had to manage this sibling rivalry. Bummer. "Getting agencies to work together is even more essential now that clients are moving away from an agency consolidation model towards hiring specialists," says Jennifer Soriano, associate at digital consultancy Cello and former senior advertising manager at Visa.
So what now?
Well, there’s the easy way out. Give time-outs. Lets the kids sort it out. But maybe you need to rethink your strategy. Most often it’s the parent that needs some attitude adjustment.
Here are steps you can take to prevent the siblings from getting at each other’s throats:
Agencies may not want to collaborate for various reasons. They may not want people to peek behind their curtains to protect their business. Or they may not be savvy enough to understand collaboration benefits every channel. Just like kids need to understand that the game becomes more fun when they share the Legos, agencies need to get past their preconceived notions and work together to produce the best possible work for their clients.
"What I’ve seen work in the past is for clients to take a heavier hand up front. Brief agencies together. Proactively set up those touch points. Pen the actual collaboration process and schedule," says Soriano. "The hope is that once you teach the village to fish, they will be able to one day feed themselves and just meet expectations by continuing this process with other projects."
You may have an agency that you are more comfortable working with. We all have our favorite child, don’t we? And it may seem convenient to take one agency’s idea away to be executed by your favorite agency. This may fulfill a short-term goal but will create long-term resentment.
You may have a preference for an agency’s ability to execute, but regardless you must conduct yourself with transparency. If a digital agency has a TV idea but no TV experience, outline your concerns on why you think the traditional agency would be the best fit, but give them credit for coming up with the idea. This approach will pave the way for integration.
If the agencies have questions, they must feel comfortable talking to you without having to go through layers. Layers lead to inconsistent messages. Just like mom and dad need to have a united message on what time kids go to bed, everyone from the brand director to the CMO must agree on the campaign direction when they speak to any agency in their roster.
Outline what the agencies are supposed to deliver and judge them on that. You don’t want to push your kids too much while doing homework. Similarly, you can’t say you want paradigm-changing work, knowing fully well that the media for 30K banners has already been purchased. Or that the budget is actually shrinking. You want to avoid a situation where everyone is bickering over a piece of the pie that doesn’t exist.
Even if you do everything right, bickering will happen. Sometimes it’s convenient to avoid the problem and let agencies sort it all out on their own. However, agencies look to clients to create a fair environment. When you sense friction during the process , it’s better to iron things out before small problems escalate into tantrums. The goal should not be to assign blame, but to reach that predetermined goal decided earlier in the process.
Sibling rivalry will never go away. Dealing with it is a constant learning process even for the best clients. Because just when you think you were getting the hang of managing two siblings, a third one may come along. The social media agency. Then the fourth. The search agency. And if you aren’t careful, the fifth. The CRM agency. Or god forbid, the Pinterest agency.
Going forward without a clear integration strategy is lot like asking the kids to draw different pieces of a horse without proper direction, then piecing them together. It shouldn’t be a surprise if your horse ends up looking like an ass.
But if you need help, get it. Get a nanny who can help out so you can focus on the bigger marketing picture. Once the kids start playing nice, you can watch them enjoy themselves while you relax and sip on your integrated martini.
Vinit Patil and Rudi Anggono have straddled the digital and traditional sides of the agency world and dealt with agency rivalries firsthand. Vinit is currently a creative director at Box.com, and Rudi is currently a pan-European executive creative director at TBWA Paris.