WARC’s Cannes Lions Creative Effectiveness Awards summary perfectly resembles the importance of using traditional media and social media in sync. The discussion about traditional media’s relevance loss seems to be still premature as well as social media’s reach power in this fragmented media landscape. If those two are orchestrated together with a well curated content pool, effectiveness follows. Media strategies cannot be medium led, pay-off led or budget led in this new era but story led. So every brand has to have a coherent story to tell in a relevant media strategy with smart ROIs. This simple truth forces creative houses and media agencies to work together as one team and write the right story. Which almost never happens. Because agencies are rivals trying to get more share of one single budget, they compete and they try to outsmart each other. They all insist on their way of telling a branded story and rarely compromise. Sometimes they are asked to compromise and collaborate with others; however, they do not do it sincerely but pretend. A pretentious collaboration is the worst – it leads to a bastard communication attempt.
Is there another way?
Now, let’s try to see it in another way. Project yourself in a TV show: you are captivated in a house with some random people that you barely know. The producers tell you to collaborate with others to prepare a perfect dinner. Just one single dinner experience for a picky audience. There are no well defined role sorts and no menu. Just some ingredients and limited time. They also tell you that you will be awarded if you make a clear contribution. People may react in many ways in such circumstances: trying to lead the whole group may be the most attractive option to be a hero but it is far more risky. What if they think that you are dominating them? What if they do not listen? Waiting for someone else to take the lead is safer, then you can try to contribute and help her/him… But what if (s)he comes with a very bad idea or (s)he is very arrogant? If you try to put some criticism for a better and if the people do not get it, what if they think you are impossible to collaborate… Hmm. What to do?
Now think about the same setting, but now you are not alone, you are a representative of a team. All of the players are. Call them agencies. There are many agency representatives to cook dinner, ingredients are clear and the timing as well. Who will take the lead? Your team pushes you to sell their recipes and make them come to life. Apparently same thing happens with others. Your team made it very clear that they would not cook someone else’s recipe. What to do?
Most of the big network agencies tried to solve this issue by investing in their own media, technology, digital, social media, design, PR teams in house and tried to avoid the hunger games. It is not a new idea, when I started my career I was working in a full-service agency; it was a conventional ad agency with a below-the-line studio and a media department. Those times were not better at all, because the problem is not about having the same entity name on people’s business cards, that does not make things easier. The problem is all about managing the eagerness and the egos of people. If you’d push to make creative egos collaborate and if you’d try to make peace among them, you’d better be the boss… or they will eat you. As a starter.
And it is not that odd. Ask Jamie Oliver to collaborate with Gordon Ramsay? Can it happen, I cannot claim so… Every kitchen has to have one single Chef. You cannot ask Chefs to collaborate or you cannot have a hierarchy of the Chefs. Every Chef is the Chef of its own kitchen and (s)he is the one to rule. Period.
So, we all need to accept that we should not push ourselves to find collaborative agencies. The most collaborative ones are the ones that does not have a real Chef and therefore no solid creative edge. They demand you to give the instructions to enable them deliver the work. But on the other hand, we cannot have five different menus from five different Chefs for one single dinner, we cannot afford that. And even if we can, let’s say we can decide to select the menu items after five different menus are all cooked. We cannot curate the best menu after things are cooked, it will be eclectic, will barely reflect a holistic thinking. And to add more, in most cases we cannot get the best menu with just one single Chef, they have their specialties; one may be the best in soups and another one in deserts.
Nowadays, there are many collaborative models that are being used by the Brand Managers to elaborate the quality in curation and refine media strategies to get the most of the creative ideas. I respect all of them and personally, I believe that the brands should have more responsibility and understanding about their storytelling anyways. Because they are the owners of that brand, they are the only constant that would grant sustainability in brand communication. However, I question about the weight of effort that should be put into it. New positions, new titles, new definitions, more bureaucracy… In this era of swift changes in marketing fundamentals and tools, can we afford huge marketing departments? Should we recruit a specialist for Facebook and one for Snapchat? How much should we invest in our SEM Specialist’s annual training to keep her/him up-to-date?
Here are my alternative solutions:
1. Change your expectations: You cannot take the best of everything in one menu. You cannot eat Jamie’s fish cakes and Gordon’s steak at the same dinner. Choose one of them at a time, and give the lead to your Chef. Let her/him decide about the menu, do not ask who is cooking what… Just be patient. It will take time for them to find the right talents that they can collaborate with in their kitchens. That is not your problem. Do not recruit an army of specialists in your marketing department. That would not pay off. Try to keep your team agile and smart.
This also can be a way to make agencies to have sustainability in their talent pool. They can keep the quality of their kitchen and keep their creatives motivated if they know that they have the business. The whole kitchen will be confident and harmonised. And also the big networks will learn how to commercialise and standardise their Chef’s products and create their own know-how and equities.
2. Change the industry: Kill the business model of ad agencies that depends on egos. Let there be no madman around. Liberate creativity, embrace the fact that no Chef can guarantee the appreciation of the customer anyways. And just analyse what is going on in those other creative industries. Follow their models, be brave, invest in a new thinking!