Clients remind 4A's audience to focus on their problems, too

Wendy Clark recently took over as DDB North America  CEO after 11 years at AT&T and Coca-Cola.
Wendy Clark recently took over as DDB North America CEO after 11 years at AT&T and Coca-Cola.

Marketers ask agencies to get better at working together to find creative solutions to their business challenges

MIAMI — On a day dominated by tense discussions of the ills affecting agencies — the indignity of spec work, the chronic lack of diversity, a certain discrimination lawsuit dominating headlines — a handful of marketers reminded the 4A’s Transformation audience on Tuesday that agencies needed to work together to solve their clients’ business problems.

"Let’s be clear. There’s this notion that agencies don’t like to work together," said Wendy Clark, who was celebrating her 78th day as North America  chief executive at Omnicom’s DDB after 11 years at AT&T and Coca-Cola.

"Forget that," she said. "Your clients believe their agenda is your agenda. Your agenda absolutely has to be your clients’."

The sentiment was echoed later in the day throughout a panel discussion titled "Inside the Mind of Marketers."

"The best agencies respect each other but don’t respect the boundaries," said Rex Jackson, marketing director of Legoland Florida Resort. "I worry about agencies feeling they are in a particular silo," he said.

As a highly immersive, real-world extension of the Lego experience, Legoland demands that marketers think outside of their standard assignments, he said. "The line is blurring between programming, marketing and product development," he said. 

To illustrate his point, Jackson pointed to Legoland’s relationship with VML, which developed a new campaign for the amusement park last year. "It wasn’t just a marketing campaign to sell product, it was actually marketers developing the product to be sold." The agency, he said, helped the resort come up with a multi-tiered pass system based on levels of awesomeness, from "awesome" to "awesomer" to "awesomest."

"There is an interaction between marketing and agency and programming today that can benefit the final product," said Jackson. "What we are looking at now is that we start to interact with our agency up front."

In the past, brand managers held onto the brand equity so tightly, agencies didn’t have a seat at the table. "The difference is shared responsibility," he said. "When you share the ownership of the equity, and have a long term partnership with the agency, the work we get back from the agency is that must stronger because they are vested in it."

Maryam Banikarim, global CMO of Hyatt Hotels, echoed that sentiment. "I wasn’t looking for a vendor, I was looking for a partner," said Banikarim, who recently consolidated global creative on all of its brands with MullenLowe. "We want full partners at the table."  

"Innovation is everybody’s job," she said.

Jim Berra, CMO of Royal Caribbean International, discussed a recent campaign that used Periscope to broadcast live experiences of people on cruises. While the initiative was risky, Berra said, Royal Caribbean and its agency, MullenLowe, "wanted to test new media." Pulling it off required trust in the agency and its process. "It was contingent on planning and letting events unfold," he said. "If you aren’t feeling uncomfortable, then you aren’t taking it far enough." 
Being more inclusive throughout the process was a theme repeated throughout the session, whether that means bringing in other creative voices, like content creators or social media influencers, or collaborating with other agencies to solve brand problems.

Luanne Calvert, CMO of Virgin America, said her challenge is getting consumers to tell the brand story. "There is no more control. Our customer is the one doing the talking for you," she said. "My job has changed. I’m there to plant idea seeds and try direct the conversation in a way I want to get people talking about the brand."

Collaboration across a brand’s roster of agencies was also stressed, as Calvert pointed to an outdoor Times Square experience that Virgin created that required collaboration between the client’s PR, digital, social and brand agencies.

Ultimately the new agency/client relationship requires a new openness and inclusivity, said the marketers. Calvert pointed to the agency role as facilitator, pointing to the role Goodby Silverstein & Partners played with the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl effort that commissioned game ads from the public. "The agency enabled other people to share their ideas," she said. "Finding interesting people to partner with is what’s next in global marketing."

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