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Marketing is not a solo act it’s a huge collaboration

Unlike the 80’s and 90’s where agencies were expected to have all the answers with little client input apart from a brief – agencies these days hope for and expect much greater levels of collaboration from their clients. But how do they achieve it?

Research of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS) shows that functional and transparent collaboration between marketer and agency leads to creativity and that clients and agencies that are in a stable relationship are more likely to produce campaigns that are both profitable and effective. It also shows that clients who are more closely involved in the development of campaigns are more likely to receive inspirational offerings from their agencies.

Some marketers achieve their objectives through placing all of their marketing communication requirements with one provider. Big multinationals such as Massmart or Woolworths usually require a big agency that can handle a range of functions – or are often likely to take the work in-house which has happened in both of these cases.

‘But many marketers are reporting mixed results to IAS,’ said Johanna McDowell, MD of IAS. When marketers choose not to use integrated agencies, they need different and compatible agencies which are able to handle print, TV, radio, digital, social media and mobile and it is seldom that a marketer can manage all of these moving parts without a lead agency. Given that each of the companies working for a marketer is competing for a share of the marketer’s budget, complete chaos could ensue without a lead agency,’ said Johanna.

‘The biggest decision that marketers grapple with on this subject is who should control the process and who should direct it in order to get the best results,’ explained Johanna. ‘This means that the involvement of the client is more critical than ever before. Collaboration is now not an option, it is an imperative,’ she continued. No matter how much marketers talk about being ‘committed’ to the collaboration process, its success rests on total buy-in to the vision, a driver for the process being identified – and often the help of an intermediary who has the appropriate tools to tackle complex relationship issues and ensure a fair process. ‘The collaboration between marketers and agencies is essentially a business partnership with all parties pursing mutual goals – mostly profit targets and brand awareness. However, it is impossible to achieve these targets if the common goal of good and clear communication is not achieved,’ said McDowell.

McDowell, whose intermediary company is affiliated to international associate company AAR Group, maintains there are new international models to achieve good collaboration. In Australia, for example, some agencies are incentivised and, if they are successful, receive a bonus. The performance incentives apply to both agency and client while providing controls on inputs for both sides. It also explicitly recognises the planning and negotiation facets of compensation schemes through which the accommodation of each set of organisation goals can be achieved. ‘But the South African market is not yet ready for this,’ maintained Johanna.

Instead, her company has enhanced the capabilities of its TLC Programme, a proactive management tool. When leveraged, it clearly demonstrates to the marketer/client how effectively the collaboration is, or is not, proceeding. It diagnoses problem areas and identifies which remedial steps are most uniquely appropriate for both agency and client.
‘Marketers can be assured that a good strategy, clear role definition and some skilled mediation can quickly establish an award-winning collaboration,’ Johanna concluded.

About Johanna McDowell:
Johanna McDowell is Managing Director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS) which stands at the forefront of the complex world of agency selection in South Africa and is one of the few experts driving this mediation and advisory service in SA and globally. Johanna is UK educated and has a High National Diploma in Business and Marketing with emphasis on the European Union from Twickenham College of Technology. She has a Diploma in Marketing from the Institute of Marketing in the United Kingdom and is a member of the institute. McDowell also has a Retail Principals Diploma from the City and Guilds of London Institute (City & Guilds).

She is a Life Time Member and Fellow of the Institute of Directors, a Board Member of the International Association of Public Relations and past President, Member of Women on Boards UK, SA Non-Executive Director of the Free Market Association of SA and is on advisory board of the South African Institute of Taxation Professionals, SAIT where she sits on the procurement board committee. She is also the Present Chairman of the IPRA 2015 World Congress.

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