Mars CMO: Stop agency imprisonment and achieve sustained creativity

Global marketing leader of FMCG brands discusses his four rules of brand/agency relationship and shares lessons on how to drive sustained creativity as a marketer

Marketers must stop using fear as the basis of agency relationships and put more emphasis on curiosity, collaboration and profitability if they hope to achieve sustained creativity, Mars global CMO claims.

Speaking at the AANA Reset conference in Sydney today, the FMCG company’s global marketing leader, Bruce McColl, used the analogy of imprisonment to describe how many brand/agency relationships are currently run, and why it’s time to change attitudes to drive performance.

According to McColl, there are four damaging behaviours commonly employed in agency partnerships today. The first he described as “subsistence ratios”.

“There is always this question of what to pay agencies. We have to pay enough to ensure agencies make a good profit, so they can get the best talent to work with our businesses,” he told attendees.

The second no-no is relying on mandatory rules around creative briefs and advertising, McColl said. “What this does is ensure agencies produce exactly to the rules. At Mars, we’re trying to break through that,” he said.

The third behaviour to be overcome is what McColl called “layers of prison wardens”. “At Mars, we have introduced one designated advertising leaders per development – it’s not always the most senior person, but they’re in charge over4all and are making that call,” he said.

“It’s no use having death by committee in the ad approval process. You have to be clear about who are your leaders with responsibility for final decisions and have them accountable for that, attending every key meeting.”

The fourth and arguably most damaging behaviour impacting creativity is the “threat of death row”, McColl said. He compared brand/agency relationships to a marriage, arguing that they go through ups and downs and need to be driven by conversation and ongoing engagement if they’re to produce true creativity.

“I can’t understand anyone who thinks they can get the best out of partners if there’s the looming threat of dismissal,” he said. “We don’t want fear and passivity from agencies, because then they won’t challenge us, or push us. You need to remove these barriers from your ongoing agency network.”

This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other partners within the collaboration, and McColl pointed to the raft of new partners Mars has brought on in recent years, ranging from X Media Lab to MIT Media Lab and University of Geneva, as examples of its efforts to ramp up innovative thinking around its brands through new technology, data-driven and academic insights.

But the absence of fear is not enough to produce good creative on an ongoing basis either, and McColl had several key lessons on achieving sustained creativity as brand.

The first of these was that performers continue to perfect their craft. Mars’ expanded external partner relationships, along with its work to understand its consumers better, were vital in achieving this, he said.

“We’re dealing with light buyers who are substituting brand and category benefits,” McColl commented. “The first obstacle we have to overcome is that there’s no audience. So we have to overcome that indifference.”

To do that, Mars has to create great content outside of just the 30-second TV ad spot, and that makes the consumer cry, laugh or is useful, McColl said.

McColl pointed to the 1960s supergroup, The Beatles, for another big lesson in sustaining creativity, which is that dissatisfaction drive creative ambition.

“What did The Beatles have to do to sustain success past 1963? They had to fight complacency,” he said.

With confidence in success also comes a belief you can reinvent yourself, McColl said. “Sustaining creativity is about being satisfied with success today, then move forward,” he said.

McColl also advised marketers to be “curious and collaborative”, and pointed to the inevitable need to “fail spectacularly, and fail cheaply” in order to achieve creative success time and time again.

“Just don’t fail ignorant,” he said. “The reality is you won’t get this right all the time. Think about honing your craft, and driving that to the edge.

“We have to work out how to push boundaries but do it in a way we can learn and move forward.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Behaviour change, by design

​We’re living in an age of unprecedented change. We experience with Oculus Rift, invest with Acorns, consume video through Hyper, tune into Pandora and navigate with Waze.

Glen Jeffreys

Head of UX, Deepend Group

Chat bots: How to use them commercially right now

I’m sure that many of you out there have heard a lot about chat bots (aka messaging bots) recently, and the fact that they are here to stay is pretty evident by now.

Deniz Nalbantoglu

Managing director, Webling-Interactive

Top tips to uncovering consumer insights for business innovation

An in-depth understanding of consumers sits at the heart of what we all need to do, but we know it’s not always easy to uncover insights that will unlock a true innovation opportunity.

Matt Whale

Managing director, How To Impact

Thanks, Nadia. It was so interesting blog for me because it helps me able to understand well on the basics of business and marketing conc...

MichaelBGreen

3 ways marketers can raise their executive influence

Read more

Having been to the AO on Wednesday for the first time in a number of years I was very impressed with the new branding. The event has evol...

Naomi

Tennis Australia unwraps new brand identity for Australian Open

Read more

This was amazing and so inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

Vijay Kumar

Design thinking: Leading with experience

Read more

Great read, thanks for posting. MR should be seen as the holy grail for marketers and brands, as it offers an unprecedented capability to...

Barney

Interview: The business case for mixed reality in marketing

Read more

what a load of shit, and what a major stuff up... the new brand device is sterile, boring and just plain bad. Would be better suited to a...

James Yoi

Tennis Australia unwraps new brand identity for Australian Open

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in