marketing agencies

Sep 12, 2017

If you’re the marketing leader for a big brand and managing multiple agencies, you probably already know what I’m about to tell you: Your agencies secretly hate each other. That’s just the way it works - but it doesn't have to be that way. The good news: you have the power to create a collaborative approach that will breed more high fives than agency fist fights (mentally speaking, of course.)

The way it traditionally works, a big brand hires a lead agency to develop the Big Idea, but that idea is almost always created specifically for TV. Even when a brand calls the idea a “platform idea,” it’s not yet a platform – especially when all you have is a TV script in hand. This is only the beginning of the dated “waterfall” model.

Once the idea has been formed, the traditional agency shares it with the brand’s various partner agencies who then must determine how to make it work on their various channels (ie. social, website, search, and more). And therein lies the problem. If we were building a car, it would be like unveiling a clay model made by a designer and then later unveiled to a team of engineers. The design would dictate many of the decisions that the team would make vs starting with a collection of experts who could bring a set of best possible ideas to the table from the beginning. Tesla didn’t start with a design; they started with a lofty idea of how to change the market, and the world.

Lack of collaboration and the waterfall effect created by the lead agency operating in a vacuum breeds animosity, and the resulting siloes often create hate. The cascading waterfall effect leads to ineffective static campaigns and flawed executions. I believe there’s a better way to market your brand, and it starts with working together.

Big brands will live and die by how well they execute their digital presence, but too many of them start solely with the traditional agency. Not only is that agency riddled with siloes, but your agencies and digital efforts will be sidelined as well — and that’s a huge mistake right out of the gate.

How to create an agile agency roster that works together (and actually enjoy each other.)

As the CMO or leader of your company’s marketing, you have the power to change the divide between your teams. You have the authority to facilitate a healthy agile agency roster. Collaboration is an art that takes time and concerted effort, and disrupting your status quo now will result in better outcomes later.

Take these steps to ensure your agencies work well, collaborate and #InventTogether to deliver effective, powerful marketing.

1. Create a 360 degree agency organizational chart

To help you and all of your agencies visualize how your marketing work is structured and interconnected, create an agency org chart with your core strategy and digital mindset at the center. Your chart should illustrate how every agency has a seat at the table and works together to produce digital-first campaigns that everyone can leverage.

2. Brief together

Historically, the lead agency is briefed first, but why limit your inputs to a single perspective? Great agencies should always poke, pull and push your initial brief – share it with your entire agency roster and you’ll be surprised at the new insights you get. Diverse perspectives might change the angle 10 degrees and make a huge impact on how everyone heads to the finish line.

3. Start with big, broad-stroke ideas from everyone

As with structured brainstorms, the more minds in the beginning, the better. The biggest mistake a brand can make is to task the lead agency with developing the big idea. This squashes any inspiration in the early stages that might lead to innovation. Don’t ask for finished, polished ideas—instead, ask your agencies for “back of the napkin” concepts and broad strokes. Then, put all of those suggestions up on the wall and be inspired. Don’t be afraid of something new.

4. Own the Big Idea

Ultimately, there should be one core platform concept, strategy or key message. As the CMO, you are in the driver’s seat to make this idea official.

5. Revolve 360 degrees around the big idea

Once all of your agencies have subscribed to the Big Idea, it’s time to collaborate and bring it to life in various forms. This means sharing ideas among one another. Get your agencies together to brainstorm creative ways to actualize and execute on the core concept.

6. Empower the right lead conductor

It’s going to take a strong multidisciplinary leader to keep the collaboration going and see the final products to the finish line. In some cases, the lead conductor shouldn’t be a brand or traditional shop that play in only one channel. Sometimes unpacking the “integrated idea” is best orchestrated by the digital agency, the one best equipped to connect the dots across all channels, and who has a mind for the customer’s experience.

If you’d like to chat about how to pull this off with your agencies, email us at

Chris Pape is Founder and CCO of Genuine, a born digital creative, tech and media agency that believes brands must “invent together” to win in today’s connected economy.