The New Conversation on Collaboration

Minneapolis-based agency Periscope recently announced the addition of nine key hires – all senior-level names from agencies like DDB, BBDO, Vayner Media and FCB, spanning areas of expertise and agency value-add (as reported by Adweek). As part of the “Agency of the Future” panel at last month’s 4A’s Transformation Conference, Periscope CEO Liz Ross explained the agency’s updated model:

“Client centric decision-making – when you make the most optimal choice for your client versus your agency or holding company – is critical for building an agency of the future. Agency independence and integrated capabilities allow us to help a client achieve their goals without pushing a specific service or amount of spend.”

As Periscope sets out to position itself as the “agency of the future,” collaboration is the name of the game, calling on the industry’s best to keep efforts laser focused on results and driving client success – all backed by a holistic agency approach that fosters transparency to guide client decision-making.

Barry Wacksman, EVP, Global Chief Strategy Officer at R/GA, shared a similar sentiment on the panel, as reported by Ad Age:

“The best companies have a broad range of services that allow them not to be pigeonholed into one label, like consultancy or agency. The whole aim is help companies grow.”

For modern agencies, this starts with understanding why a client wants something – ultimately, creating a new conversation on collaboration when it comes to the agency-client relationship. Today, “collaboration” starts with a more strategic foundation and ongoing efforts to reach a client’s desired goals and success based on business outcomes – as opposed to a project completed on time, within budget and scope.

“Working collaboratively for a shared client is critical for their success, especially as clients have leaner marketing departments and more responsibilities than they did a decade ago. There is added pressure as clients are hiring creative agencies more on a project basis rather than an agency of record. As a result, it becomes that much more critical to collaborate effectively to support the clients’ marketing programs.” – Zach Rosenberg, Adweek

In the Adweek article linked to above, Rosenberg also references last year’s 4A’s conference where Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB, “discussed how collaboration is the root of speed and efficiency…Clark cited ‘how’ they work is equally as important as ‘what’ they do.”

“I have had the privilege of talking to dozens of founders about their experience with agencies and outsourcing. Of all those conversations, there seems to be one major commonality that shines through: The lack of communication and collaboration between an agency and a client is terrifying. The idea of a founder writing a brief on what they want, dropping it off at some agency (along with a big check), and crossing their fingers scares me. If you are working with an agency that seems to be OK with that disconnect and might even push for it, it’s not going to be a positive experience.” – Christopher Swenor, Forbes

Where agencies could once tout a focus on collaboration thru open work spaces, brainstorming sessions and ongoing reports demonstrating metrics as they related to short-term KPIs, today’s definition of collaboration reflects a mutual charge on success and needle-moving metrics. Agencies adamantly fixated on client success are fueled by strategic knowhow and backed by the full-service capabilities to address their client’s needs, overcome their challenges and maximize every opportunity. When agencies create a culture based on success as the shared deliverable, in lieu of project delivery, collaboration does not just result in more client success – but additionally, more agency growth too.

“Collaboration, communication and being connected to an overall strategy are imperative to agency success today, as well as their clients, which is one key reason we built Rova internally as an agency years ago. Internally, it was a unifier, helping us to emphasize more clearly the service and value-add we wanted, and needed, to provide clients amongst our own team…

In Rova, agency teams and clients can track what’s working, what’s not and identify next steps. That kind of transparency and real-time metrics sticks with clients and leads to more SOWs for agencies. Creating Rova was actually our solution for making that agency transition as seamless as possible. We needed a platform that would make it possible to manage, measure and execute a strategic relationship with clients. We needed that kind of tool, but it didn’t exist. So we built it.” – Joe Olsen, Rova CEO

Recent DataXU research found that 67% of brands and agencies describe the process of setting KPIs as collaborative, but they also indicated vastly different preferences for which KPIs they actually value – with brands focused on ROI and agencies generally focused on conversion rates, shares and likes. “Brands in particular feel very certain they know which KPIs are best, as 77% indicated. Not far behind, media agencies expressed similar feelings about their own ability to know best, at a rate of 57%. These results suggest that instead of pursuing discrepant KPIs, brands and agencies should make sure they agree on KPIs in pursuit of brands’ business objectives.”

Every agency, big and small, has the ability to easily implement strategic oversight and maximize its current suite of offerings by establishing a shared vision of success, working collaboratively with clients to identify what KPIs matter and ladder up. That’s why our goal at Rova is to demystify organic growth helping agencies realize that business strategy is something you’re likely already doing, but with the right framework can be harnessed for additional growth.

Recommend Reading & Next Steps:

Download The Agency’s Guide to Earning a Seat with the C-Suite to learn how to build more strategic relationships, presenting your agency the opportunity to offer consultancy-like services to better compete in today’s marketplace. You’ll also get our 5 recommended sets of questions to kick off every client engagement, resulting in more collaborative relationships – in the modern sense of the word, of course.