Ian Maynard, head of marketing and business development director of London-based creative and production specialist network, explains why a lead creative agency and support agency structure in successful agency/client relationships is driven as much by the search for creative quality as cost and convenience.
One of the biggest mistakes that advertising agencies can make is to say ‘Yes’ to a client no matter what the nature of the work is: these days, for example, everyone claims to be fully up to speed with digital but are they really?
Chasing revenue for the sake of it can lead to tears; the plumber taking on the electrics might just be a very expensive, and possibly dangerous, mistake.
A bit of honesty can pay off by working with a client to help them secure the best possible team of service providers even if they are not from the same outfit. One trend that has started making headlines is clients appointing a creative – lead – agency plus a ‘support’ agency for the volume work.
Both types of work need to be executed to high standards, ensuring the customer journey from TV to website to store is seamless. Think Apple as a company that practices this philosophy to within an inch of its life.
Creative advertising agencies are better off partnering a business geared up to deliver volume work, such as W&K and Tag, for a number of reasons:
1/ The people who choose to work in a good creative agency do so to focus on smart thinking combined with strong creative ideas; often this requires time plus talent plus intelligent insight.
2/ Where a client (often a retail client) also needs week-in, week-out tactical advertising on a local basis it is better to bring in a business geared up for this kind of work; the creative agency isn’t structured in this way.
3/ The purer creative agencies’ biggest investment is first in people, second property with kit and equipment a long way down the priority list whereas production specialists invest huge amounts of cash in technology and operate out of lower-cost property.
There is of course another significant driver of this trend. Back in the old days all production costs were uplifted by 17.65 per cent (equal to 15 per cent of the gross cost, the same as the discount from media owners) plus volume discounts were paid retrospectively to the agency. So if the volume discount was, say, ten per cent then the incremental income to the agency was around 25 per cent.
The advent of procurement would dig deeper into the margins and net costs and conclude that by dealing direct with the production specialist they could save a whopping amount.
Jane Griffiths, regional marketing director EMERI at Christie’s and a former European marketing director of Citi, says: “The reasons for decoupling production from the creative agency include consistency and speed of delivery, cost-effectiveness (the ‘do it once principle’ through one team as opposed to many) and more efficient, transparent process management.
“This allows the creative agency to focus on their core strengths of strategic planning and creative ideas. They rarely win awards for ‘transcreation’ of global ideas, so their focus is not on volume implementation. Frustrations then often build up locally, so undermining the overall relationship, no matter how brilliant the original creative product.”
Jonathan Trimble (left), CEO of 18 Feet & Rising which handles the Nationwide account among others, says: “The public at large are far more familiar with the production quality of all communication than they might have been then years ago. The quality of the brand work in broadcast media should be followed through to the purchasing venue, on or off-line.
“So even if press work for a grocery retailer briefed on a Monday to run in 50 local/regional newspapers on the Friday, the end product must be consistent with the expensive production number running in the centre break of Coronation Street. So speed can no longer be an excuse for poor quality; after all a picture taken of the pet dog at 3pm can be seen on Facebook all over the world minutes later.”
This is why support agencies, with their technology and expertise, have become an essential partner for both advertisers and the lead creative agency. It is becoming a ‘three legs of the stool’ model in more and more successful agency/client relationships.