29 September 2009

How multiple agencies produced an IMC program for their client

Yesterday we had the pleasure of co-presenting an IMC program to an important client.

“Co-presenting” means: us (the lead agency), the digital agency, the promotion agency, the shopper marketing marketing agency, and the public relations agency. That’s a lot of agencies. You’re probably thinking: What a disaster that must have been.

Actually it was a success. Together we showed them a single, simple idea that could drive the work of all the agencies, plus some examples of tactics showing how each agency would take the idea and run with it – all of us in the same direction.

How did we get to a successful meeting?

Strategic homework. Part of our job as the lead agency is to help the client develop new product ideas and understand the best way to sell them. This is a big responsibility requiring us to have deep knowledge of the consumer and the category in which we compete. You can’t just show up to a project – be it IMC or a single advertisement – and get to work.

Strong relationships and clear roles. Although we have a unique role in doing the strategic homework, we are part of a team supporting this client and we work assiduously to build team relationships. The client is paying for those resources, so why not leverage them? More than that we just believe everyone has something to contribute and should be respected on that basis. It’s important to note, however, that the resources can’t show up and cooperate without clear roles set by the client and accepted by the team. In this case, we led and the other agencies followed, in the same way team captains take the field with their teammates.

Know when to work together and when to work individually. Recently there was an article on how to conduct successful inter-agency brainstorms, and it was a painful read. We've all been there. The only thing the author left out was this piece of advice: Don’t do inter-agency brainstorms. In the project we presented yesterday, there were occasional touch points – some face-to-face, some via conference call – where we hashed out strategic direction. We would then go away and work, regrouping later to share what we had created. Because the strategy was sound and our relationships strong, the ideas followed – and so did the sense of cooperation.

We’re not done yet. The same client who established clear relationships was courageous enough not to preassign his marketing budget to the various channels (advertising, in-store, digital, etc.). That means I’ll be posting soon about channel-neutral planning, one of my favorite subjects.

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