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From slack to slick: it is time to transform marketing

What was once healthy competition between agencies working for the same brand has, in these pressurised times, become destructive one-upmanship.

What was once healthy competition between agencies working for the same brand has, in these pressurised times, become destructive one-upmanship.

How many of us can tell stories about meetings stuffed with a glut of people from different agencies vying for the client’s attention while surreptitiously undermining rivals? Hardly a ringing endorsement for the nimble, agile, collaborative industry we are supposed to have become, this antiquated approach benefits neither agency nor brand.

It’s ironic we’re stuck in this pattern of behaviour at a time when agencies are desperate to tell anyone who’ll listen that a core part of their expertise is helping brands with digital transformation.

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While agencies preach to clients about rebuilding business infrastructure and culture to meet today’s needs, most aren’t applying the concept of transformation to themselves. So perhaps it’s time for a dose of our own medicine.

Let’s take a leaf out the digital transformation handbook by embracing marketing transformation – taking lessons from Formula 1’s obsession with analytics, insight, responsiveness and process to rebuild marketing’s structure and culture. Only then will we become the well-oiled, lightening-fast machine that’s needed to reach pole position in the contemporary marketing race.

Long gone are the halcyon days when marketing and advertising were fluffy arts driven by pontification and gut instinct. For better or worse, the new breed of CMO is now process-based, data-fuelled and stringently operational. From tracking ROI in real-time to monitising content, the modern marketer is under constant pressure to commercialise the discipline.

So it’s no wonder new ISBA research reveals two-thirds (68%) of marketers are frustrated with the time it takes external agencies to make decisions or turn around briefs. With real-time social and content becoming an ever more critical strategy, the traditional six-month lag between brief and delivery is a luxury we can no longer afford.

It’s no wonder new ISBA research reveals two-thirds (68%) of marketers are frustrated with the time it takes external agencies to make decisions or turn around briefs.
To keep apace with consumer expectations, we have to be uber relevant. And that means creating campaigns – whether it’s a 140-character tweet or a branded content video – with a level of speed and efficiency that’s not been witnessed within the industry before now.

In the same way that pro sport, aviation and healthcare have benefited from the concept of marginal gains, we desperately need to find opportunities for speeding-up the making, doing, distributing and measuring.

Identifying small but significant wastages and weaknesses in bureaucracy, budget and resource is a sure-fire way to perfect an already-efficient machine But for those willing to take a bolder step, transformation may lie in adopting a new operational model.

By embedding agency teams within marketing departments, greater authenticity, collaboration, transparency and accountability are nurtured through geographical and metaphorical proximity.

This more seismic approach to transformation doesn’t merely deliver the tightened-up processes that we’re all crying out for. It can also be the catalyst that marketers need to help them shape the wider business by aligning company culture with the more public face of its purpose-driven marketing. But it doesn’t really matter which side of the fence you sit on: marginal gains or seismic reconfiguration. Either way, we have no choice but to transform into a slick discipline that makes decisions based on real-time data. It’s the only option for swiftly delivering relevant communications with operational rigour.

Chris Gorell Barnes, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Adjust Your Set.