Musings from our MD inspired by the current favourites from her playlist.
The Shape of You
Ed Sheeran. You’re up first.
You’ll be pleased to learn this is not about his year’s absence from the charts and his return to the top with a tribute to his home town.
But instead it’s a rather important sentiment about what agencies need to understand to serve their clients brilliantly.
It is very much about the shape of you. Not of us.
Agencies like to pride themselves on their flexibility. They talk of “bespoking a service around your needs” and “tailoring our solutions to fit”.
Never has this been a more essential requirement as agencies fight to retain their relevance and value.
But what does it mean (if we have to avoid resorting to those clichéd statements above)?
Is it, like any relationship in life, actually about compromising? About learning to live with one another warts and all? Because perfect fit doesn’t really exist – but perfect enough fit does.
What does great fit look like? What does the shape of you (and them) need to be?
My view is that clients should bring out the best in their agency – encouraging you, driving you, motivating you, encouraging you, challenging you, embracing you. In return you’ll discard any fixed notions of what they need and actually start with an open mind, get to know them as individuals and as organisations, and ask enough questions and spend enough time in their company (and Company) to get to know what will work.
No doubt experiences from other clients and industries, methodologies and approaches you have used and learnt elsewhere, will have a bearing, but what will work best is if you respect that this is a new relationship and you have to first learn what makes each other tick.
Their shape, their makeup, their component parts – whatever you want to call it – will be uniquely theirs and it is our responsibility as agencies to put in the legwork to understand it and respond accordingly.
And, as Ed would put it, that gives you the rightful title of The A Team.
Sign of the Times
Harry Styles. Not Prince.
That One Direction’s progeny is front of mind as I follow this musical theme which currently has me questioning my choice of radio station on the way to work.
Nevertheless, I have been thinking a lot about what represents the changing times for agencies and how we must adapt to them to stay relevant to our clients.
In the earliest stages of my career clients wrote 10-year brand plans. At the moment it often feels like, at best, we’re dealing with 10-week plans.
There is short-termism everywhere you look. Is it because society is living more in the moment? Many say that PLCs and shareholders are too (the acute focus on each quarter can be felt when we talk to clients).
Or is it the pace of change from technology that’s rendered us all a bit stuck and anxious about trying to control the future? After all, we can’t begin to anticipate what’s coming down the line when the art of the possible is so incredibly rich and diverse.
In this hyper connected world, it’s a sign of the times that somehow along the way we are forgetting about the things that matter. About manners, for starters. Not just at home (if you’re a parent you’ll relate to the frustration of talking to your child as they glue their eyes on Instagram). But in business too. Have we forgotten the importance of being nice (of being earnest)?
There will be many agencies who have felt the pain of travelling far for a pitch, put in weeks of effort and then suffered the standard email response saying unfortunately they were not selected. By the same token there will be many clients who have put pitch briefs out to agencies to not have them acknowledged or even simply turned down.
What price for manners? For recognising that we all have a job to do. And our jobs will be far better done if we feel we’re all on the same page. We must remember the basics – the “thank you” for input or effort, the “well done” for the ideas or work supplied, the “don’t forget” gentle nudges and reminders that keep things moving. And this is on both sides.
There are some big loud messages that are coming over clearly for all those listening:
Stop, look, think
The mistake is to be running at things when the groundwork hasn’t been done.
Do less, better
Being busy does not mean you’re doing the best job, being focused does.
The team works
Get intimate with your colleagues and your agency and knuckle down together to get results.
Remember where you started
Get back to basics, roll your sleeves up, graft like it’s the first day you started out.
Be humble, be human
There is no place for ego in today’s workplace or market, so remember your humanity and be kind, gracious and purposeful.
Sharpen your spear
If you can hone it to the finest point, that strategy is going to be a whole lot more impactful.
Look at the numbers, keep asking why, ask the non-obvious questions, drill deeper until the unexpected hits you in the face.
In the physical sense (at times) but always in a motivational sense, inspiring them by your behaviours, attitude, persistence tenacity and energy.
Follow these signals from the market and you’ll be going in one direction. Upwards.
Can't Stop The Feeling
Nothing beats a pitch win.
Correction. Much will beat a pitch win if you’re a client side marketer. I’ve just never been one.
But I do like to try and walk in your shoes on a daily basis.
By doing so I can ensure I best represent your voice in the agency.
JT’s song got me musing as to what might make you dance around the office like a loon (as we often do when we win a new client). What gets you on your feet, punching the air, fist bumping your colleagues?
I’m guessing it’s not a three-hour meeting discussing budgets. Or a new process for workflow governance around one of your internal content systems.
You’ll celebrate when you know you’re doing something great, personally and with your team.
That greatness will no doubt come in many different forms.
- A brilliant idea.
- Identifying something truly unique that a competitor is not offering.
- Seeing the fruits of your labour translate into proper returns for the business.
- Feeling that you have an organisation that is playing with purpose.
- Being the individual responsible for that purpose and seeing the delight in the faces of the people you lead as you share the vision with them.
- Being recognised for your efforts and achievements.
Or maybe it’s far more simple that that.
It’s learning you’re not alone in the day-to-day challenges that are facing everyone in digital and marketing circles.
Perhaps it’s when you are out at a networking event or an industry conference. You talk to others in the same role and you get that lightbulb moment. It’s then you realise that most people are tackling the same blockers and identical issues and that they don’t have the answers either.
It’s one great aspect of being an agency head. You get to meet so many different organisations. Often those who you absolutely believe will have it all “lined up” very rarely do, and if anything, those you expect to be blazing a trail are feeling as lost on that path as everyone else.
Feeling lost. It’s never comfortable. And a million miles away from the happy dance described earlier.
But there’s safety in numbers. And the best clients will welcome input and advice from many sources to help them regain their way. Great agencies are, after all, journey makers, creating directions and paths that deliver great outcomes and give you good feelings once again.
You might say we bring your SexyBack.
Ah the dimunitive popstar Bruno Mars sure is a wizard when it comes to writing infectious pop songs that you can’t get out your head.
He’s always a source of inspiration. Let’s face it – who doesn’t love magic.
Not the scary kind.
I’m talking the Disney-style of magic – the wonder-fuelled, fairy tale-like, mystical, charmed, enchanting type of magic that makes us all feel as giddy as five-year olds wearing mouse ears and Belle costumes.
Great magic in business is not about trickery, illusion or sleight of hand.
It’s about moments of wonder, where you captivate your audience, sprinkle the fairy dust and suddenly the world feels like a better place.
I recently met with a senior Director of Disney and we talked a lot about what goes on “behind the scaffold.” She used this expression. It was in response to my comment about the apparent magic of their operations. The literally astounding logistics that are running effortlessly (it seems) to make the Parks run as slick as they do – yet I don’t see any of it.
It feels like a lesson in great agency/client management. You don’t need to see our housekeeping. We should be open, transparent and honest – that goes without saying. But we need to deliver a service operationally that runs beautifully - without you getting to see our cogs and wheels.
But more than this, you should expect the unexpected. It’s not enough to just deliver. It’s about the light touches, the special somethings, the X factor moments that can really transform a relationship from ordinary to extraordinary.
I’ve lost count of the ones we’ve enjoyed delivering. The prototype of a VR Beam Me Up experience for CBS in the UK as they were about to re-run Star Trek (created proactively over a weekend for an informal breakfast) stands out – and won us a Webby.
But it’s not just the grand gestures. It’s the simple ones. Tuning in emotionally, to your client like you would a partner. Knowing when not to bother them. Knowing when to lift them with a funny story. Knowing how to put things in perspective. Knowing when it’s time to crack out the cakes.
Being emotionally intelligent as an agency person is a critical skill. One you should, as Bruno might say, treasure.