The Importance of (good) stakeholder engagement in any marketing transformation project

Each year at TrinityP3 we work on many large strategic marketing projects. Ranging from marketing performance solutions to technology solutions to roster alignments, most of what we do will often involve a lot of people across quite complex organisation structures. Depending on the brief we will engage with CEOs, CMOs, CFOs CTO’s or procurement, as well as pretty much everyone in between. And at times it can, quite rightly, feel like everyone in the business is invested in or involved with the brief we are answering. Continue reading

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Do You Really, Truly Want to Transform Your Agency?

Are you tired of being shoved around by clients?  Worried about your fees?  Missing your budgets?  Is your creativity undervalued?  Are your best people quitting for better jobs?  Do benchmarkers set your fees? Do you remember the good old days, when you trod the gilded C-Suite corridors?  When you were treated with respect?  When your work was award-winning and it really mattered?  When what you did made a difference?  Friend, you need a transformation.  A real transformation. Continue reading

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Ad Industry’s Talent Crisis is a Symptom, Not a Disease

ANA was brave to issue a “scathing report” (per AdAge) on the lack of talent in the advertising industry.  Certain outsiders were fingered as contributing to the talent problem: universities that “aren’t keeping pace with the industry’s changing needs” and consultancies and tech giants that are offering “more generous salaries and perks.”  (Shame on them!) On top of this, Millennials remain an enigma — why aren’t they more eager to enter the industry?  What ANA did not describe were the day-to-day operations of advertisers and agencies that have turned the advertising working environment into a relatively unattractive one for job-seeking graduates, a trend that has been in swing and gaining momentum for the past 15 years.  Continue reading

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Managing Marketing: The importance of brands and branding in the digital age

Simone Bartley, co-founder and CEO of Together Co discusses with Darren the concept of brand and brand promise and its increasing importance to business in the digital marketing environment and why brand is core to any business requiring the leadership of the CEO. Continue reading

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Let’s Hear It for Madison Avenue’s Makeover!

Social media has turned us, I regret to say, into relentless, dour critics. In the advertising industry, every misstep is pounced on and amplified. Dove, Pepsi, McDonald’s and their agencies are pilloried for trying and failing. Misjudgments, mistakes and tone-deaf efforts are treated as capital crimes.  I’m as guilty as anyone, having written a long critique of ad agency management in my recent book, Madison Avenue Manslaughter, and in writing these weekly pieces. Whatever my (and our) good intentions might be, non-stop criticism is soul-destroying. It makes us tiresome and grumpy.  At a certain point in time, we need a shift of focus, from the negative to the positive — from Madison Avenue’s Manslaughter to Madison Avenue’s Makeover. Continue reading

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The dangers of pitching your agency on a regular basis

Do you work for a company that routinely has you take your contracted agencies to pitch every three years? Is this mandated by finance or procurement? Or is this something that the marketing team believe is the best option? We know that many organisations have a habit of going to pitch every three years, just as we know that in every switched on agency there is a new business person who marks down the date of your last pitch with a note to call you in two years and six months hoping to get on your next pitch.

But here is the thing you are missing. It is highly likely that while you have justified this practice as being good governance and due diligence, it is possible that you are wasting significant amounts of money and possibly doing damage to your corporate reputation, along with the performance of your brand and business. Now you may think this is counterintuitive advice coming from a company that you may associate with pitching, but the fact is pitches are less than 10% of the strategic management consulting we do and secondly it is the other 90% of work on marketing and agency roster performance that has informed this opinion. But let me explain as to what we have observed. Continue reading

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The Other Opioid Epidemic: The (Brief) High from Chasing New Business

The agency CEO asked me not to use his name.  He wanted to talk privately over breakfast.  “You know, this new business thing is getting to be a problem, he said.  “We’re addicted to falling in love with our next new client, and the one after that and the one after that.  They will solve all our problems.  We’ll do great award-winning work, be well paid, and loved in return … and all the industry crap will disappear.  We’ll pour our heart and soul into winning them.  They’re coy; both flirtatious and distant, making us want them even more.  We’re no better than lovesick teenagers.  And when it goes our way, and we get together and have a wonderful first year, it’s true love … before it turns to crap.  We hate the crap.  We would rather be in love.  That’s why we love new clients and everything it takes to win them.”

Are agency-client relationships becoming loveless marriages that end up on the rocks?  Do the divorced partners, free of the ties that bind, become serial daters, falling in and out of love so often that “commitment” sounds boring and dated — something that was done by their parents in another creative era?  If brands are the children of agency-client relationships, what will happen to them as they’re shuttled from one relationship to another? Will they grow and make positive contributions?  Or, more likely, will they underperform (as they are today)? Continue reading

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Managing Marketing: The essential role of business innovation beyond being a management fad

Dr Lee Styger, Director of the Executive MBA at Sydney Business School, University of Wollongong, discusses with Darren the importance of innovation in businesses, but innovation that is based on developing and delivering enhanced customer experiences, rather than being yet another management fad. Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing. Today I’m here with Lee Styger who is the Director of the Executive MBA at Sydney Business School, University of Wollongong and it’s a great opportunity because we’re going to be discussing a hot topic, which is innovation. Welcome, Lee.

Lee:

Thanks, Darren.

Darren:

Except that it’s not a hot topic, is it? Because everyone’s talking about it from the boardrooms down to the grassroots or the factory floor but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of innovation actually happening.

Lee:

What we discussed in the Green Room – we’re old enough to look at the history of management fads from business process re-engineering, total quality management, all of these things and about every 18 months a new one comes around and I think innovation is currently one of these perceived magic pills by leaders all around the place.

You say innovation; by what measure? How are you doing your innovation? What is innovation? What does it mean to you and your customer? What happens? You’ve got a department for it that ticks a box for it on the annual report.

Darren:

I think I measure fads by the number of consultants that are pushing the particular service because certainly my LinkedIn feed over the last three years has suddenly bloomed with people giving advice on how to become more innovative, which I think is an interesting promise because from my perspective innovation is at the very core of a business culture isn’t it, or not?

Lee:

It should be or not. Now, where do you go with this? It’s about core. I sat in a meeting recently when we were looking at a little bit of re-engineering of an organisation and the team brought in to do this were all describing themselves and their strengths. Not once did they mention customer.

So, we’re going to innovate our own strengths to create a super team with no connection to customer. If you’re going to innovate, if you’re going to change, if you’re going to do anything new, exciting, who are you going to do it for? And if it’s about business then it’s got to be customer.

Darren:

Absolutely.

Lee:

And good old Deming told us that all of those years ago and somewhere along the line we’ve lost it.

Darren:

We said before it’s either core or it’s not except that it was also Edward Deming who said you don’t have to change after all there’s no mandate to survive. If you don’t want to change just prepare yourself for business death

Lee:

The inevitable.

Darren:

And yet you see so many companies (Einstein’s definition of insanity) that are doing the same thing over and over again in a market that is being disrupted by technology. Technology is disrupting the economics. It’s disrupting the business processes and therefore disrupting categories, and yet it seems like Boards and the C-suite for a lot of companies are absolutely paralysed in the face of change.

Lee:

Yeah.

Darren:

So, why? Continue reading

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Are you benchmarking or butchering your agency fees?

Benchmarking has quite rightly earned a poor reputation. Recently Michael Farmer, Executive Chairman of TrinityP3, expressed this opinion in an article in Media Village republished here. This poor reputation is primarily because it is used by many in the industry to simply reduce agency fees and not as a way of obtaining a reference point for comparison, which was the original purpose of a benchmark.

I have shared this opinion with him and the industry way back in 2011 when it became obvious that many in the industry (including many competitors) were simply using benchmarking to reduce advertising agencies to the lowest common denominator. This is because many are simply benchmarking one dimension of agency being costs, such as hourly rates or day rates. In this case, they are relying on titles and position descriptions as a measure of quality, or ignoring value completely, then simply butcher the fees paid for those resources to the lowest in the market. It can certainly deliver cost reductions, but usually at the expense of the quality of those resources.

Very early on we acknowledged that the rate or fee per resource was flawed and often criticised those who used cost per FTE resources as a benchmark for being the same type of people who would buy books by weight or choose a movie based on the length expecting it to represent better value. Instead, we set about developing benchmarks that better represented a benchmark of value rather than cost.

It is not benchmarking, but the misuse of benchmarking that is the issue.

Misapplication of agency remuneration benchmarks

I participated in a meeting of a Marketing Leadership Team (MLT) and was presenting the results of the agency benchmarking we had undertaken on a number of their agencies. The various agencies had different roles in the roster of agencies in regards to the type and quality of work they were expected to produce. They also had different specialist knowledge and skills that made the roster complimentary to the capabilities required by the marketing team.

Using low, medium, and high benchmarks, and benchmarks specific to the category in which they operated, we were able to provide significant insights into the current remuneration models and how well they were performing for both the marketers and the agencies. It was not a surprise for the MLT that the lead agency was at premium to the market overall, even though the organisations procurement team had achieved a significant reduction in the agency hourly rate at the contract negotiations three years earlier, the agency was effectively working at the high benchmark because of the additional hours, particularly in creative, they were investing in delivering the scope of work.

While the procurement team had reduced the premium agency to midlevel benchmark fees the agency had managed to recover by inflating the resources required for the scope of work to make up the shortfall that would have resulted in the retainer. The marketers were comfortable with this and were also happy to know that they were getting what they were paying.

On the other hand, a second tier agency who worked on project fees were priced on an hourly rate card similar to the lead creative agency (clearly the benchmark provided at the time) and slightly higher than their market position and expertise, but were managing on a project by project basis to add incremental margin to each project quote as a way to improve profitability. Interestingly it was this second tier agency that was perceived as more cost-effective even though they were effectively more expensive overall for delivering the scope of work.

The reason for the difference in perception turned out to be that being on a project fee and being able to incrementally increase margin the second tier agency were more attentive and more available than the retained creative lead agency.

If the purpose of the original agency negotiations was to reduce cost to the organisation, the procurement team had used a common benchmark across all agencies, but in a very one dimensional manner, being rate or resource cost. In the process they had encouraged or at least allowed the agencies to game the system procurement had created by increasing resource hours in the retainer to make up for the shortfall, or allow a project system were the agency could incrementally increase costs without anyone noticing. In both cases the cookie cutter approach to benchmarking failed. Continue reading

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7 Questions Everyone On Your Marketing Team Should Be Able To Answer

When it comes to setting expectations with your agency(s) – and your marketing team – there are some ‘price-of-entry’ questions everyone should be able to wrap their head around. None are complex, but they are the bedrock of creating harmonious client/agency relationships and ensuring everyone is focused and aligned.

And even if you think your teams are completely clear and in sync with their respective roles and responsibilities, some of the answers (or lack thereof) might surprise you. So, why not test them out? Here is what we believe are the top 7 questions everyone on your business should be able to answer:

What are our expectations?

Whether asked from an individual or corporate perspective, expectations of – and between – everyone should be the starting point. The sting in the tail of this question is that if people can’t answer it, chances are you’ve not been clear or never articulated expectations to begin with – so if there’s a worrying silence after asking it, perhaps it’s an opportunity to bring teams together and let them know. Continue reading

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Engagement Agreements to align expectations and performance – 3 case studies

Just as marketing is increasingly complex, so the relationships between marketers and their various agencies are increasingly complex and difficult to manage. Many of the past practices, both formal and informal, struggle to keep pace with the changes and complexity. Over the past decade and more we have seen many marketers still relying on the assumption that the relationship they have will their agencies will naturally manage to work itself out. At the same time, we have witnessed an increase in complaints from marketers over the fact that their agencies struggle to work or collaborate together.

We have also witnessed an increase in agency contracts that appear to address this issue, with the inclusion of service level agreement (SLAs) and set up key performance indicators (KPIs). The trouble is that firstly, these are designed for the delivery of services, but do not easily define the interdependent relationship that exists between marketers and their agencies or between the agencies working with the marketer. Secondly, the agency contract, once signed, is often filed and not looked at again until an issue arises or the marketers are planning to take the relationship to the market. Continue reading

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What Happens When Ad Agency Creative Magic Fails?

Ad agency creativity was pure magic in the traditional days of Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy.  Advertised brands flourished and grew, and iconic brands like Tide, Budweiser, McDonald’s, Visa, Chevrolet, American Express and others became genuine Lovemarks, earning countless millions for their brand owners.

Agency creativity has been much less magical in recent years with the advent of digital and social media, “content” instead of ads, and the widespread introduction of technology and e-commerce to the changing demographic mix of consumers, with fickle Millennials now the dominant segment.  Iconic brands are dead in the water, marketing spend is shrinking, and CMO job tenure is short and uncertain.  The magic of creativity disappeared along the way. Continue reading

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Is your marketing function centralised, decentralised or distributed?

It is interesting that when you are talking to business people about marketing, the majority seem to think of marketing in the context of marketing communications, or what was not long ago considered Promotions or Advertising, one of the Ps in what was the 4Ps of marketing. This is probably not surprising as promotions and advertising are certainly the high profile and public end of the marketing process and certainly where a significant component of the budget is spent, especially on paid media, but increasingly on owned and earned media too.

But the fact that many organisations think of marketing as the marketing communications area, leaves the question of where are the other traditional marketing functions located within the organisation? The reason for asking is that often when we are what marketing structure do you have the most common answers are either centralised or decentralised. Only to find out that even when it is centralised it is usually only the marketing communications function that is centralised and typically marketing is actually distributed across the organisation.
Continue reading

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How To Improve Briefings To Your Agencies

We often hear complaints about weak marketer-side briefings – both from agencies who receive them and (surprisingly enough) from marketers who admit their briefings aren’t as good as they could be. Even more surprising perhaps is that clients are forthcoming about acknowledging they’re ‘part of the problem’. What’s perplexing perhaps is that when asked, ‘why don’t you fix your briefing process?’ they ask, ‘sure, but how…?’. For anyone asking, we run training workshops for marketers looking to strengthen their internal resources and create stronger working relationships with their agencies, from providing feedback to agencies, to evaluating creative and yes how to write better briefings. But for the purposes of this post, here are a few questions worth asking to help set your teams up for success and writing better briefings: Continue reading

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When “Best Practices” are Worst Practices

Did you hear about the infamous Army briefing during the Vietnam War? “We had to destroy Ben Tre in order to save it.” The briefing referred to a terrible act, the annihilation of a Vietnamese village by overwhelming American firepower, carried out during a terrible war that was lost in any case. So it goes when tactics, rather than strategies dominate a conflict. Less gruesome, but relevant is the bungled tactical war between advertisers and agencies. Well-meaning tactical “best practices,” used extensively and nearly universally by marketing procurement departments, are worst practices that destroy agency capabilities and annihilate partnerships. Unfortunately, agencies are equally complicit in their destruction.

The Relationship War began, like many wars, with a skirmish and a few opening shots. In the ’90’s, media commissions were giving way to labor-based fees, and advertisers were clueless about agency headcounts, salaries, overhead rates, and profit margins (let’s leave aside the stupidity of adopting this labor-based approach). Advertisers asked their agencies to provide the necessary cost details. Agencies demurred, offended by the request, failing to recognize that procurement folks had been used to knowing intimate details from their manufacturing and distribution suppliers, and they expected the same transparency from their marketing communications suppliers. The agency refusal to cooperate infuriated procurement. As one exasperated executive told me in 2003, “Who the hell do they think they are, anyway? A bunch of prima donnas. I’m going to whack their fees by 10% — maybe that will send them a message.” Agency fee cutting became procurement’s raison d’être, and over the decades fee-cutting took on many sophisticated forms: Continue reading

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