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Six degrees of collaboration

In a recent discussion on agency performance tracking, there was a debate on what collaboration actually means. While everyone was aware of the definition of the term, the context was under scrutiny. One client felt that collaboration was a hygiene factor and there was no need to reward an agency for a behaviour that should be integral part of their offering.

However, with the ever-evolving marketing landscape, collaboration needs to be looked at from different aspects and across the board. In times of fee pressures, resource cuts and promiscuous clients, protecting their turf becomes second nature for agencies. Thus leading to issues on inter-agency collaborations, which also exist when the agencies belong to the same mother agency and/ or network. And why should marketers get off scot-free? In order for the agency to do good work, clients need to have inter-organisation collaboration as well.

So here are six degrees of collaboration:

1) Client-Agency: This goes without saying, but success comes from teamwork between these two key parties. Agencies need to help move the needle on business, which can only happen if clients involve the agency upfront and don’t restrict agency involvement to communications alone. What is the business problem that needs to be solved? That should be the starting point. Clients need to leverage agency skills better to close their own internal gaps. Thus making the agency an active partner in change.

Case Study: NTUC Income and BBH (Singapore)

While NTUC Income had grown by leaps and bounds since it first started in the ’70s, it had little relevance to modern Singaporeans. In 2007 with a change in leadership came a new agency relationship with BBH and a differentiated campaign with positioning of “Made Different” was born. This award winning campaign has been used over the years and has led to a perception change amongst the consumers. The strong partnership involved investment from both sides. For Income, it was the time spent opening up its business to the agency, getting them in front of the sales team as well as the top management. And for the agency, it was a process of immersion and education with the senior leadership team being actively involved in the running of the account.

2) Inter-Agency: “What’s in a name?” Shakespeare said. Why is a social agency relegated to the back bench while the creative agency leads? Aren’t there relevant briefs where the media agency’s role should be front and centre? In the sandpit of marketing, agencies cannot throw away their toys because they are miffed. Clients need to think through each brief and decide the role of the variousagencies. It’s not necessary that one agency should lead every time.

Case Study: Lyric Coke (China)

The “Share a Coke” message was taken one step further by printing lyrics from over 50 of China’s most popular songs on the labels of Coke bottles and cans. Each bottle was outfitted with a QR code that allowed the music clip to be shared on social media. This highly integrated campaign depended on the cooperation of several agencies and tech partners. Conceived, built, and led by Isobar (the digital agency), the ATL creative expression of the idea was handled by Leo Burnett; the non-digital media buying was done by Starcom, while Isobar and Posterscope were responsible for digital and OOH media, respectively. Best Shine negotiated the music rights for Coca-Cola. The idea of sharing branded music content via social media in China was a first for the industry and required technology integration across social and video sharing platforms to create an exceptional user experience within WeChat.

3) Agency-Tech Partner: Technology is no longer your back-end. A tech partner needs to be working closely with the agency from concept stage. How many times have clients loved an idea, only for agency to inform them- much later in the game- that it was not possible to execute it?

Case Study:Uniqlo- uMood (Japan)

O2O and in-store experiences are on the rise, as retailers are using tech to bring people back into the brick-and-mortar stores and to get them talking about the brand. A prime example would be UNIQLO, where they used brainwave scanners to detect consumers’ moods and then match them to T-shirts in an in-store event. The core technology for this campaign were the neuro readers (brain-wave scanners) alongside an API to read each participant’s state of mind. The mood and emotions generated by the stimuli videos were mapped to a database of t-shirts that corresponded to the specific mood registered by the scanner. The agency had to work with DentsuScienceJam, the company that developed neuroscience technology in Japan.

4) Marketing-Business: Silos exist in every organisation. It’s time to break down the walls. Marketing needs to get a seat on the business table, and to do so it needs to show business results and not merely rely on brand trackers and engagement rates as KPIs. The end goal for every marketing campaign is the same – to generate sales. To do this, marketers need to both generate new leads and nurture the qualified leads they already have. Marketing needs to build new and unique bridges with e-commerce, sales, IT and other cross functional teams. At Sears, they call this the “Tiger Team” – the go-to talent across the company that can provide insight, inspiration and solutions

Case Study: MasterCard Digital and eCommerce Engine (APAC)

MasterCard built an innovative business model to reach people with the right content in the place where they already spend their time – social and digital channels. To do this, MasterCard built a social and digital business model that drives transactions in addition to engagement. There was no ready-to-use solution across six key APAC markets that could address different languages, needs and media consumption, so MasterCard built a custom solution in conjunction with Digital Arts Network and several different technology platforms such as Google Trands, Synthesio, DOMO, Circus Social and many others. The MasterCard Digital and eCommerce Engine’s NYE campaign featuring Hugh Jackman succeeded in driving 3 million qualified leads to their merchant partners, with some reporting a 200% uplift during the campaign, thus giving the marketing team a voice in the business.

5) Global/Regional-Local: This is a remit for both clients and agencies. Agencies claim network leverage at time of pitching, and upon winning the business regional/ local offices are left on their own with Global getting involved only in times of crisis. Network agencies needs to use their global offices for the capability development of local teams and closer sharing of best practices and case studies.

On the client’s end, while its understandable that most organisations have multiple stakeholders across regions, it leads to complexities. However, Marketers cannot hide behind this matrix any more, but rather have to find more robust processes to manage cross-border stakeholder alignments. Collaboration between varying brands also needs to be considered like in the example shared below.

Case Study: Unilever Tweetheart (India)

Unilever brought its various brands together for Valentine’s Day to engage with the youth in a meaningful and relevant way. With each of the brands wanting to have a distinctive message and say, there was clearly a huge challenge in getting 12 brands under one consolidated platform. This was done under the common communication agenda #Tweetheart where for the first time Unilever could engage with everything to do with Valentine’s Day without having to compete with their own brands for SOV. Mutually exclusive conversation spaces were created for each of the brands; Pond’s spoke to women who couldn’t decide what to wear or where to go for their date, Axe spoke to men who were trying too hard to impress women, Lakme engaged with women who were trying to get their look right for their big date night. The results speak for themselves: The #Tweetheart garnered 14.7 million impressions on media, driving close to 400k unique visits to the webpage and an astounding e-commerce value of INR 2.3 million in just 15 days.13 per cent of those who clicked on one offer also clicked on another thus creating a halo effect on participating brands.

6) Agency-Media owner: The internet darlings- Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google- affectionately called ‘The FANGs,’ can help make or break creative ideas. Agencies who can work with them from concept to execution are the ones who can get innovative work to market- faster and more efficiently. With advanced targeting and re-targeting, not only can brands reach a specific audience, age group, gender and location of their choosing, but they can leverage targeting technology with other detailed data to further personalize their advertising efforts and engage customers in real-time and create a tailored experience that will enhance the possibility of improving conversion rates.

Case Study: Expedia- Thrown Back Thursdays

Expedia tapped into one of Instagram’s most popular trending topics – #tbt (Throw Back Thursdays) which has over 300 million posts – to stand out in their category and to drive engagement. This social campaign played on the nostalgia invoked by travel photos, inviting users to tag their photos on Instagram or Twitter for a chance to revisit the location in the photo. Instagram provided the campaign’s media platform, while 180 LA was responsible for all social strategy and content execution of the campaign. Facebook analytics, Twitter analytics, as well as Sysomos gave deeper insights into their findings.

Parting note– You cannot pay lip service to collaboration. You need to build a culture of collaboration within your organisation so teams work more effectively both internally and with their partners outside.

Seema Punwani

Seema Punwani is a Principal Consultant with R3.
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