Whose responsibility is it to set the ground rules for agency collaboration?

Andrew Pascoe

  • Head of planning, Hatched
Andrew Pascoe is the head of planning at media agency Hatched.

I’ve been working in media agencies for more than 20 years. In that time, the most productive and effective working relationships between agencies I have ever seen began with a marketer-led kick-off that laid out the rules of engagement.

If you’ve ever been in the room when you or a peer marketing head sat around the table with multiple appointed agencies, and clearly articulated everyone’s role, you know what I am talking about.

It seems crazy in this day and age that you should have to do this. But it’s your best insurance policy from agencies viewing collaborative projects as an opportunity to grow their revenue with scope creep. You want your agencies to focus on the business at hand rather than trying to screw each other over to bolster their own bottom line.

But as we all know, today’s CMOs are massively under the pump; there are a million things on your docket, which leaves playing agency referee at the bottom of your to-do list. The classic trope of the chief marketing office only spending five per cent of their time thinking about media suggests you’re not spending much more pondering how your agencies work together.

So how can do this without having to pour hours of your time into it?

If you can, bake it into the pitch process. Get your existing agencies in a room with the potential new recruits and explain how you’d like them to play together. Can they play nicely and collaboratively? Why not give them a problem to solve and see how they approach it?

If you’re auditioning a long list of potential partners, that might be a tall order so instead, make it part of onboarding and induction. Any good agency already proposes this in their onboarding schedule but often, it’s a platitude that gets skipped over. Don’t let that happen. It’s in the best interests of everyone involved to take the time and build the foundation for a long and successful partnership.

Measurement is also important. How do you want to measure the collaboration across your agency partners? Move beyond lip service and set the bar on a more granular level than the generic, ‘Is the agency open to collaboration?’ Set up KPIs from the outset and whenever there is reflection, feedback and review, revisit them.

Why not get your agencies to rate each other’s performance against these metrics? A 360 with a twist. From the creative to the suit, the planner and the PR lead, canvass a wider opinion and share those findings with all of your agency teams. After all, these are the people collaborating on a day-to-day basis rather than the MD or CEO of the agency.

Once you have established this approach, you can get out of the way and leave your agencies to it without wondering what’s going on behind the scenes.

Of course, it’s not all up to the client. Over here on agency side, we need to do our bit too.

When we get appointed, we should be asking how the marketer would like us to work with their other agencies. If there’s not a system in place, we can help to set one up. What a great way to add value and begin a good client relationship.

Whether we’re the new agency in the roster or the incumbent welcoming others to the fold, we can take the initiative to establish clear lines of communication with the other businesses on the books, even if the CMO hasn’t specifically laid out the ways of working.

It's the ultimate win-win-win. Agencies often get client referrals from other agency partners which is a cherry on top of better work output, better client relationships, and clearer roles. That also means less busywork. So let's start with giving some attention to rules of engagement, then everyone can get on with making the great stuff.

Tags: agency relationships, marketing operations management

Show Comments

Latest Whitepapers

More whitepapers

Latest Videos

More Videos

More Brand Posts



CMO's top 10 martech stories for the week - 9 June

Read more

Great e-commerce article!

Vadim Frost

CMO’s State of CX Leadership 2022 report finds the CX striving to align to business outcomes

Read more

Are you searching something related to Lottery and Lottery App then Agnito Technologies can be a help for you Agnito comes out as a true ...


The Lottery Office CEO details journey into next-gen cross-channel campaign orchestration

Read more

Thorough testing and quality assurance are required for a bug-free Lottery Platform. I'm looking forward to dependability.

Ella Hall

The Lottery Office CEO details journey into next-gen cross-channel campaign orchestration

Read more

Great Sharing thoughts.It is really helps to define marketing strategies. After all good digital marketing plan leads to brand awareness...

Paul F

Driving digital marketing effectiveness

Read more

Blog Posts

Marketing prowess versus the enigma of the metaverse

Flash back to the classic film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Television-obsessed Mike insists on becoming the first person to be ‘sent by Wonkavision’, dematerialising on one end, pixel by pixel, and materialising in another space. His cinematic dreams are realised thanks to rash decisions as he is shrunken down to fit the digital universe, followed by a trip to the taffy puller to return to normal size.

Liz Miller

VP, Constellation Research

Why Excellent Leadership Begins with Vertical Growth

Why is it there is no shortage of leadership development materials, yet outstanding leadership is so rare? Despite having access to so many leadership principles, tools, systems and processes, why is it so hard to develop and improve as a leader?

Michael Bunting

Author, leadership expert

More than money talks in sports sponsorship

As a nation united by sport, brands are beginning to learn money alone won’t talk without aligned values and action. If recent events with major leagues and their players have shown us anything, it’s the next generation of athletes are standing by what they believe in – and they won’t let their values be superseded by money.

Simone Waugh

Managing Director, Publicis Queensland

Sign in