OPINION: 'Why being an ‘extension of the marketing team’ CAN BE detrimental TO creativity'


Carat's very own Roisin Rafferty took out the honors in the media category of this year's Young Lions competition with her partner Nelson Demartini (UM). Below, she shares her opinion with AdNews on the benefits and challenges of close client / agency relationships.


Founder and CEO of Under Armour Kevin Plank, spoke at Cannes about his journey creating one of the world's powerhouse brands. He spoke of some of the big breaks, tough lessons and how they have built a relationship with their agency to promote creativity. He had some tough love for the audience saying: "We spend too much time justifying average work when we could spend that time doing the good stuff."

As a client himself, he did acknowledge that often clients may seem like the barrier to innovation, but nine out of 10 dismissals come from a fear of the unknown. Dave Droga (CEO and founder of Droga5 and all round Aussie powerhouse) was also on the stage and agreed that it’s the role of agencies who want to stay relevant to fill the knowledge gaps and keep their clients as up-to-date as possible with the landscape and emerging technology.

Both agreed that the secret ingredient for any strong agency relationship was trust. Kevin made it clear that he trusted David’s judgement 110% (and you would be mental not to, it’s David Droga…), but he made a point that if the team at Under Armour is ever concerned about something, he always asks ‘What does David think?’ To me this shows a relationship that should be the end goal for all agencies -  a client who thinks of you as part of their team, as decision makers with influence over the business direction. We often hear the phase ‘..an extension of the marketing team..’ but what is becoming crystal clear is that is no longer enough. Being an extension of one department doesn’t give agencies the empowerment to look at communications with true innovation at the center.

There are positions emerging in this industry that you would have never believed 10 years ago, from principal interactive director or chief data scientist to head of digital innovation. Agencies are adapting to the changing tides of communications, not just because they have to in order to remain profitable, but because the people that make up this industry are some of the most creative and provocative thinkers in the world who simply want to do good work.

As the media landscape continues to fragment, and the way audiences consume media changes, the role of an agency will be more important than ever and it’s going to be crucial that brands develop trust with their chosen agency. A communications solution more often than not will need involvement from many departments of a business, not just the marketing team.

What was obvious was that David and his team had earned that trust – they worked hard and produced epic work that was the foundation of their relationship with Under Armour. If I have taken anything from this session it’s that having a client who says no to innovation isn’t an excuse to produce average work. The onus is on us – the industry – to move our clients forward with us through education, persistence and bloody great work.

This article originally appeared on AdNews.

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