Make Beautiful Music Together

One brand message, multiple agencies: Here are 10 easy tips for navigating the intra-agency divide
Oct 01, 2006

Brand teams that need help guiding their agency-integration efforts may find it useful to look outside the world of pharmaceuticals, and zoom in on the model of a well-orchestrated jazz band. If you've ever had a chance to see a live jazz show, you'll understand: Talented players creating melodies that make sense on their own; when built on another band member's riffs, however, melodies rise and fall in a sum of harmonies that offers an oratory experience that no one player could deliver alone.

Similarly, agency-integration meetings should result in group synergy and a flow of great ideas. Suggestions from one agency should spark creativity from another, and together, the brand's initiatives should become more robust, connected to the business goals, and efficient.

Today, agency integration is more important than ever. That's because consumers need multiple touch points in order for messages to penetrate. In fact, the most successful campaigns are often due to cohesive and consistent messaging across the different disciplines.

For instance, to break through the noise and constant clutter of everyday life, a pharma brand team may decide to do the following: target a particular type of consumer by placing an ad on a billboard for a particular treatment, pitch disease information to a magazine for a story on a relevant disease, or send an e-mail that offers a cut-out questionnaire for consumers to take to their doctor to see if a particular drug is right for them.

Put simply, interconnectivity among agencies that specialize in different areas along the consumer continuum allows brands to achieve even higher levels of performance. And in today's competitive environment, it is no longer a choice—but almost a mandate—to do this effectively.

In particular, brands with integrated agency teams can achieve:

  • Better synchronization of tactics across disciplines, with all agencies—be it advertising, direct marketing, media buying, or public relations divisions—operating under the same directives and timelines
  • Unified branding, with all collateral material supporting the same brand goals and creative platform with similar language and imagery
  • Cost savings and efficiencies resulting from coordinated research that eliminates project redundancies, and shares learning across agency silos
  • Time savings, given that information will not need to be repeated for each individual agency.

Most companies aim to integrate their agencies' efforts by holding a meeting once a quarter. Often, this meeting contains only one-way communication—with each respective agency offering an update—then returning to their desks without the benefit of input or exploration from the other companies working on the same brand.

It's probably unnecessary to tell you that this tactic doesn't work. However, it doesn't need to be this way. Instead, companies and their agencies can find a new way of working that leverages the collective knowledge, resources, and capablities of all agency partners. What's more is that this process can be simple.

The following tips can help product managers create agency teams that work harmoniously—even across functional divides.

1. Align the brand team

Pharma company marketers must express their commitment to the integration process by ensuring that, first, the brand team is aligned on the priorities, processes, and procedures of the brand's creative and tactical execution. When agencies see that the brand team is committed to integration, it becomes not only possible—but also imperative—to break down the silos and work together in a cross-platform approach.

Integration is even more firmly entrenched when the brand uses incentives and rewards to encourage collaboration.

2. Assess the damage

All too often, the silo mentality prevents agencies from working with one another in a way that benefits the brand. In particular, there are certain issues that come up again and again for brand teams with multiple agency partners. These issues—or "black holes"—are indicative of communication gaps. To spot where these might exist for your brand, take an inventory of the issues discussed in "Mind the Gap," page 30.

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