The days of silos are well and truly over

Division rarely makes any work better.

Together we can do so much.

Agencies and marketers need to be more careful than ever to get rid of silos in campaign development. Things go wrong when there are silos.

Here’s two reasons why.

First of all, silos mean that the right people aren’t always in the decision-making room at the right time.

In her assessment of the recent Centrica review, group chief marketing officer Margaret Jobling astutely said that the era of "channels and everybody operating in splendid isolation is well gone". She pointed out that "It is no longer clear where, for example, media and content creation start and stop".

Often, what happens as a matter of course is that media and creative might be briefed together, but then creative tissue sessions may go ahead without media people present (but they shouldn't). Media strategy and execution meetings may exclude the creatives (and they shouldn't). We shouldn’t be separating the medium and the message in this way, because the medium is the message and so this common practice is not only anachronistic, it is damaging. 

At planning and development stages of creation of work, there is no such thing any more as a creative meeting that the media experts shouldn’t go to. There is no such thing any more as a media meeting that doesn’t need creative input.

The damaging result of this siloed behaviour is that too much time is spent fighting fires.

The job of many senior managers too often revolves around making sure that a situation that has begun to go off course is retrieved and sorted out. Those fires that start because the media people and creative people are not close enough during the ad campaign’s development process are so easily avoidable.

The more the senior people of any organisation spend time fighting fires (and some time is surely inevitable), the less good work is done. It slows you down and that’s not a good idea in an industry that’s changing and transforming as fast as this one.

The second problem is that when you work in silos, you end up encouraging anachronistic thinking that harms the work. Our industry is awash with heritage practices and one of the most debilitating is the way in which agencies have been built on the basis of competing with each other, even when they are not in competition.

Division rarely makes any work better. Tribal divisions are detrimental, with one tribe regarding other disciplines as "other". Sometimes, this leads to fear and disrespect. For the future of great work, we must fight against this demarcation and make everyone part of the team and every type of thinking belong. 

This means not sticking to your role. If the media practitioner is confined to engineering the pipes through which the creative flows, then that’s not good enough (and vice versa). Stick your nose, and your opinion, in every aspect of the work. Diversity isn't just an issue of appearance, race, religion or heritage. It is also about different types of thinking and professional background.

Collaboration is much talked about – and it's easier to talk about than to deliver. Working together takes effort, but that effort is more than worthwhile and is indeed essential in light of the complexity of today’s communications environment.  

In my experience, great work – the work that grows brands – comes from teams that work together without silos.

Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom
@SueU

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