The concept of “inside out + outside in = creative win” was my key take away from the New York IHAF Huddle on Internal/External Agency Collaboration. Jamie Graham of Constant Contact (the “inside”) and Will Burns of Ideasicle (the “outside”) shared what works in collaboration between the brand and the agency – valuable in today’s world where more than 50% of companies run an in-house agency model. Jamie and Will were clearly longtime pals that leverage each other’s strengths to bring Constant Contact’s message to market.
Here are some ideas that were explored.
Jamie and Will both proclaimed that success is dependent on creating and sharing a crystal clear brand identity. Will was emphatic that teams think about identity as the “gravity” that holds ideas from getting too far into orbit and away from the core value and the companies mission. Alignment is achieved when both teams can always go back to each other and use the recognized identity to gauge the merits of ideas and execution. Ask, “Is that idea true to the ideals and identity of the brand?”
I have often offered that internal agencies have huge advantage in being able to deliver for their brand because they have such intimate knowledge of the brand itself, after all they live inside it. Perspective was shared during the Huddle that reminded me of a comment from my friend Stan Phelps of 9 Inch Marketing who said, “It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.” Will and Jamie shared how they bounce creative ideas between their teams and the result is a stronger idea. The outside perspective with the internal may actually be the huge advantage.
As a side note, Jamie shared how he invites ideas to come not just from his creative team, or agency, but from everyone at Constant Contact. Jamie set up an idea portal on their intranet site open to all Constant Contact departments to share ideas. Not all are ideas submitted are gems but some actually have proved really strong. Imagine that!
Perhaps one of the most interesting perspectives shared was how the internal/external agency working together has an impact on squelching internal politics. We all know how personal agendas and politics sometimes get in the way of good work. They both mentioned how behavior improves when you assemble a team that includes an outsider. Work becomes about the brand. For that reason alone I could envision how maintaining a solid internal/external relationship benefits a brand.
Techniques and Technology:
While the Huddle stopped short of exploring techniques and technologies for tactical execution it was obvious that there is a need for the right tools. Ideas are only as good as the execution. Good for us at inMotionNow, the conversations confirmed that an attribute of our creative work management solution for vendor management can remove friction and accelerate creative execution. (If you’d like to have a look hit me with a note and I’ll set you up to see a demo.)
From the attendees:
In addition to comments from Will and Jamie representation from consultants, in-house creative directors at other brands and the directors from attending agencies in the audience had wisdom to share. A consensus within the group was that in-house agencies are beginning to be called on for more of the strategic and high value work rather than just the “churn” work. They are excited about that. Steve Wood from Boom Ideanet pointed to how “looking like an agency” inside the brand contributes to getting those types of assignments. Jamie shared a telling story from his childhood growing up in soccer-crazy UK that lined up squarely with that idea. He was part of a ragamuffin soccer team with no uniforms. They found a sponsor that provided matching jerseys and matching boots (we yanks call them cleats). The new look actually improved their performance and even their soccer skills seemed to magically elevate. G-O-A-L!! Going so far as to dress up the offices to match that of a top tier agency was recommended. A bonus is that it improves talent recruitment.
One last idea worth mentioning was how Eric Rotkow of Coffee & Dunn and I were in total agreement on one principal Eric shared on getting work done; efficiency and effectiveness gains come from proper process. Nail down and establish a process but be aware that a process for your creative and marketing department must be an equilibrium of flexibility, nimbleness, and structure. I plan on following up on this process theme as it deserves its own conversation so stay tuned.
There you have it, the follow up to the Internal / External Agency Collaboration Huddle New York. I appreciate the In-House Agency Forum’s commitment to continuing to grow the skills and contributions in-house agencies make to their organizations. If you’re in Boston or Dallas register to attend similar Internal / External Huddles scheduled in those cities this Friday.