And we’ve made some progress. Campaign, in partnership with Worldwide Partners (WPI) — an alliance of over 70 independent agencies worldwide — led a session that started to unpick the moments of conflict, celebrate the good stuff and start putting down pledges on how everyone can work better — together.
We know that if you find the key to a successful client-agency relationship, you find the key to a successful campaign. That’s what we were endeavouring to do.
This isn’t a manifesto based on instinct or experience or trends. Instead, alongside WPI, Campaign carried out research, interrogating over 600 brand marketers and agency leaders across the world to find out where the client-agency relationship works, and where there’s room for improvement.
The survey’s key results centred around trust (it’s essential!), communication (more important to agencies than brands!), pain points (agencies overselling and under-delivering! Brands treating agencies as a supplier!), ideas (make them great!), brands respecting independent thinking and more. We didn’t stop there, though.
We took those results to a room of leading independent agencies and brand marketers at The Marketer’s Manifesto Summit. Among the 26 guests were John Harris, president & CEO at WPI, Lisa McDowell, brand director at Ocado, Henry Chilcott, CMO, Formula E, Natalie Graeme, Founder, Uncommon, Visha Kudhail, director of business marketing, EMEA at Pinterest, Libby Brockhoff, founder at Odysseus Arms, John Keane, CEO of Ardmore and a host of other CEOs, founders, and directors from brands and agencies.
The research has thrown up five core areas — and it’s around these that participants wrestled, building out pledges. The five essential topics were… pitching; communications; delivery and output; value and cost; ethics. There was debate and discussion, presentations and insight, honesty and a large dose of trust.
Afterwards, Campaign took the ideas, finessed and digested them into the 10 pledges you find below.
“The best word I heard repeatedly today was ‘mutual’,” said Harris. “I hadn’t heard that level of commitment to mutuality before. We had over 20 people in the room, most of who didn’t know each other, and we put our egos aside to mutually benefit everyone. That demonstrates what we can do as an industry in just a short period of time.
In the coming weeks, we hope the 10 pledges will form the Marketing Manifesto, agreed and signed by participants. It’s still a work in progress but this gives you a good sense of the discussion and debate — as well as the outcomes.
“The agency should have full knowledge of what they’re walking into” Lisa McDowell, brand director, Ocado
Pledge: That the agency and partnerships briefed simultaneously ahead of pitches
The partnership should frame the type of agency the client wants to work — and this should be outlined at the same time as the brief, so the agency has full knowledge of what to expect before committing to a pitch and can make an informed decision on whether to take part or not.
Pledge: To reduce procurement rosters, or to reduce the imbalance of power
While acknowledging the vital work of procurement, we should work towards reducing procurement rosters to decrease the control finance teams have on marketers and agencies — and the time agencies waste — and perhaps encouraging marketing specialist procurement.
“Be open to compromise and listen to as many expert voices as you can — from creatives through to D&I leaders — to avoid unconscious bias” Visha Kudhail, director of business marketing, EMEA, Pinterest
Pledge: Be OK that the brief might shift
If the brief changes, ensure all parties commit to the change from the outset. This avoids tension, and ensures all stakeholders remain working to the same goal.
Pledge: Talk about what success looks like
Be transparent on the brand side about what success looks like, and be transparent on the agency side about what the delivery of that looks like. This means if the brief shifts you’re still working towards the same expectations of success.
DELIVERY AND OUTPUT
“Acknowledge that not all briefs are the same kind of brief” Jane Asscher, CEO and founding partner, 23red
Pledge: Collapse the space between the dream and the reality
Have senior stakeholders from brand and agency present at the key moments throughout the creative process. This prevents briefs being changed too late in the process, and allows the right questions to be asked at the right times.
Pledge: Great partnerships will be built on kindness and empathy
The last two years have been hard for everyone. Be kinder and more empathetic to each other to achieve better results, and celebrate successes together.
VALUE AND COST
“Commercial conversations need to happen up front — including how and where we're both going to make a profit" Henry Chilcott, CMO, Formula E
Pledge: Codify shared KPIs
Place measurable goals against a set of codified, shared KPIs. This allows agencies to push back against new, unrealistic goals. Understanding the commercial imperatives and values of both businesses from the outset of the journey will lead to improved communication and goal-setting. This should include the sharing of data and insights.
Pledge: Support the profitability of your agency
Brands should pay the right money for the agency resources needed to meet delivery expectations. Committing to driving the profitability of your chosen agency will lead to the right behaviours and better outcomes. As a partnership, this commitment to driving commercial performance is a two-way endeavour.
“We realised as an agency that everyone working for us has a degree — that’s not representative of the real world” John Keane, CEO, Ardmore
Pledge: Create an understanding of DE&I goals upfront
Ensure there is a mutual agreement to have diversity across the whole team, hold each other accountable, publish the progress you are making, and be willing to be judged by it.
Pledge: Demonstrate the commercial benefit of DE&I to the relationship.
Committing to demonstrating the commercial benefit of DE&I from the outset produces more inclusive and relevant creative, delivers competitive advantage, and drives commercial performance.
Many thanks to all attendees: Libby Brockhoff, Partner, Odysseus Arms; Guy Wieynk, Global CEO, AnalogFolk Group; Henry Chilcott, CMO, Formula E; Melanie Welsh, Founding Partner, Strat House; Robin Bonn, Founder of Co:definery; Zaid Al-Zaidy, Group CEO, The Beyond Collective; Rania Robinson, CEO, Quiet Storm; Visha Kudhail, Director of Business Marketing, EMEA, Pinterest; Dooley Thomas, President, Tombras; Trevor Robinson, founder, Quiet Storm; Natalie Graeme, Founder, Uncommon; Lisa McDowell, Brand Director, Ocado; Mikael Rubinsson, CEO, Blomquist; Jane Asscher, CEO and founding partner, 23red; Andrew Warner, CMO, Bombinate; Maren Seitz, Head of DACH, Analytic Partners; Oscar Erlandsson, Managing Director, B-Reel; John Keane, CEO, Ardmore; Neil Henderson, CEO, St Luke's; Gideon Spanier, UK editor-in-chief, Campaign UK; Maisie McCabe, editor, Campaign UK