Hybrid approaches and true partnerships

The uptake of collaborative tech over the past few months has been a necessity. APS Group’s James Lawton-Hill believes that the transparency around collaboration this has enabled is a virtue that will be carried forward, whatever the new normal looks like.

The long-term trajectory of the agency model is unlikely to change, despite the enormous impact of the current global pandemic.

Yes, there has been a disruption to working practices and major industry trends have been affected. We’ve seen the deployment of martech systems accelerate, while a previously growing preference for embedding agency teams physically on-site has slowed. Brands also have more of a focus on the bottom line to show true return on their marketing investment – more than ever every penny is being scrutinised.

A need for social distance won’t alter the reasoning behind these trends, however. Brands continue to move to a model that enables closer collaboration between their agencies and in-house teams, one which puts the agency model at the heart of business, leading to a better understanding and responsiveness to current challenges and flexibility to meet these demands.

As a global marketing communications agency, we have faced clear obstacles trying to achieve these objectives in 2020, both with existing and new clients. Building closer ties is always going to be harder when you can’t get people together in the same room to talk through an idea, which has always been at the very heart of creative ideation and execution.

Despite those difficulties, the justification for working more closely with agencies has, arguably, never been greater. In unsettled times, when customer needs are changing at pace, brands need the ability to respond quickly and adapt their communication strategies.

Working with a tight roster of agencies that bring to the table their specific disciplines and work as one with internal teams is key to success. Working to a hybrid model delivers a level of fluidity and flexibility in how ideas are developed and then activated across a range of channels as well as markets. This allows brands to be agile and bring original ideas to market at speed without having to recruit the skillset required to change direction or execute a new style of campaign. And ultimately ensuring they manage investment levels at the optimal rate of returns.

Same old challenges

Brands still need to ensure their external agencies are culturally aligned, however. They want agencies that understand their business and its objectives – so the campaigns they produce are consistent with the brand and its values.

Before the pandemic, one clear trend was to achieve those closer ties by placing agency teams on client premises, next to their brand-side colleagues. While the act of sitting side-by-side may not be happening to the same extent, we are still seeing agency teams being embedded successfully, albeit more virtually.

So, rather than holding a creative session in a breakout room, on-site agency and brand-side teams are using cloud-based collaboration and workshop tools, such as Miro. And, where those little five minutes informal catch ups before meetings may have been lost in the world of online conferencing, teams are still finding other ways to bond – through virtual lunches and online chemistry sessions. The situation is really no different to the one everyone has faced throughout the pandemic.

This hybrid approach is also helping brands move towards a more transparent way of working, not least because greater levels of trust will naturally lead to greater openness. But the systems that underpin this way of working are also facilitating better communication and closer collaboration.  

In the short-term, this will have proved advantageous for many brands forced to operate more remotely due to the pandemic. Digital asset management and brand portal tools will have helped teams to operate at speed, whatever location they may be working from. Cloud-based workflow tools will have also proved a crucial facilitator of ‘new normal’ best practices to manage and collaborate on the efficient creation of campaigns.

This transparent style of collaboration is not being limited to the brand and its individual agencies. It can, and is, being rolled out across a brand’s roster of agencies. This is providing agencies with a clearer idea of where their responsibilities begin and end in relation to others, which should dampen any tendency to compete over specific areas of work and promote greater teamwork.

As this model evolves, it will allow CMOs to adopt more of a ‘one team’ partnership approach which will encourage a roster of agencies to work towards one single shared vision for the brand.

James Lawton-Hill, marketing director, APS Group

The uptake of collaborative tech over the past few months has been a necessity. APS Group’s James Lawton-Hill believes that the transparency around collaboration this has enabled is a virtue that will be carried forward, whatever the new normal looks like.

The long-term trajectory of the agency model is unlikely to change, despite the enormous impact of the current global pandemic.

Yes, there has been a disruption to working practices and major industry trends have been affected. We’ve seen the deployment of martech systems accelerate, while a previously growing preference for embedding agency teams physically on-site has slowed. Brands also have more of a focus on the bottom line to show true return on their marketing investment – more than ever every penny is being scrutinised.

A need for social distance won’t alter the reasoning behind these trends, however. Brands continue to move to a model that enables closer collaboration between their agencies and in-house teams, one which puts the agency model at the heart of business, leading to a better understanding and responsiveness to current challenges and flexibility to meet these demands.

As a global marketing communications agency, we have faced clear obstacles trying to achieve these objectives in 2020, both with existing and new clients. Building closer ties is always going to be harder when you can’t get people together in the same room to talk through an idea, which has always been at the very heart of creative ideation and execution.

Despite those difficulties, the justification for working more closely with agencies has, arguably, never been greater. In unsettled times, when customer needs are changing at pace, brands need the ability to respond quickly and adapt their communication strategies.

Working with a tight roster of agencies that bring to the table their specific disciplines and work as one with internal teams is key to success. Working to a hybrid model delivers a level of fluidity and flexibility in how ideas are developed and then activated across a range of channels as well as markets. This allows brands to be agile and bring original ideas to market at speed without having to recruit the skillset required to change direction or execute a new style of campaign. And ultimately ensuring they manage investment levels at the optimal rate of returns.

Same old challenges

Brands still need to ensure their external agencies are culturally aligned, however. They want agencies that understand their business and its objectives – so the campaigns they produce are consistent with the brand and its values.

Before the pandemic, one clear trend was to achieve those closer ties by placing agency teams on client premises, next to their brand-side colleagues. While the act of sitting side-by-side may not be happening to the same extent, we are still seeing agency teams being embedded successfully, albeit more virtually.

So, rather than holding a creative session in a breakout room, on-site agency and brand-side teams are using cloud-based collaboration and workshop tools, such as Miro. And, where those little five minutes informal catch ups before meetings may have been lost in the world of online conferencing, teams are still finding other ways to bond – through virtual lunches and online chemistry sessions. The situation is really no different to the one everyone has faced throughout the pandemic.

This hybrid approach is also helping brands move towards a more transparent way of working, not least because greater levels of trust will naturally lead to greater openness. But the systems that underpin this way of working are also facilitating better communication and closer collaboration.  

In the short-term, this will have proved advantageous for many brands forced to operate more remotely due to the pandemic. Digital asset management and brand portal tools will have helped teams to operate at speed, whatever location they may be working from. Cloud-based workflow tools will have also proved a crucial facilitator of ‘new normal’ best practices to manage and collaborate on the efficient creation of campaigns.

This transparent style of collaboration is not being limited to the brand and its individual agencies. It can, and is, being rolled out across a brand’s roster of agencies. This is providing agencies with a clearer idea of where their responsibilities begin and end in relation to others, which should dampen any tendency to compete over specific areas of work and promote greater teamwork.

As this model evolves, it will allow CMOs to adopt more of a ‘one team’ partnership approach which will encourage a roster of agencies to work towards one single shared vision for the brand.

James Lawton-Hill, marketing director, APS Group

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