In this opinion piece, Meredith Simpson (pictured below) from Metrix Consulting argues that improved collaboration between clients’ various marketing partners, including research partners, is the key to more creative and effective campaigns.
Almost every marketer uses a roster of agencies to drive their marketing activities. When they all work together, the odds of executing an effective marketing campaign increase enormously. But when these different agencies don’t work together in an integrated and harmonious way, it can create frustration, inefficiencies and brand management risk.
Clients often evaluate the performance of their advertising and media agencies based on how well they collaborate. An analysis of global data by Aprais revealed that in formal evaluations, agencies that are required to collaborate with and among other agencies are viewed more favourably by their clients compared to those that do not. This has seen several agencies invest in resources and processes to make the campaign creation experience as seamless as possible for the client, even when there are different (and sometimes competing) companies involved.
Unfortunately, however, this emphasis on integration and collaboration is not always extended to relationships with a client’s market research partner. Often, due to differing fee structures (project-based versus retainer-based) or simply because of legacy ways of working, the people who spend day in, day out listening to the ‘voice of the consumer’ are left out of the early stages of the strategic and creative process altogether.
That’s not to say that research isn’t used as an input. The first question that any advertising planner asks the client when briefed is ‘do you have any research?’. But this is the wrong question to ask. The question that should be asked is ‘who is your research partner and when can we meet with them?’
Report versus researcher
As any good planner will tell you, just reading a research report in isolation doesn’t always give you the full picture. A past research project may have been structured around a specific set of objectives, so may not always highlight the insights most relevant to a new campaign brief. And, if a researcher has been working with a client over time, their cumulative knowledge can be invaluable.
We encourage our creative and media agency partners to involve us in early-stage brand and campaign workshops, or to just pick up the phone and bounce their thinking off us. As every creative and media agency knows, even a small amount of additional insight can make a big difference when it comes to planning and executing a successful campaign.
Collaboration feeds creativity
Sadly, there still seems to be a perception that research (particularly concept testing) ‘kills’ creativity. There is no doubt that poorly designed research has the potential to kill a good idea, but good market researchers dedicate a lot of time to perfecting their methodology to deliver the right outcomes.
If you’re working with a trusted research partner, the only time their research will work against an idea that’s worth keeping is, unsurprisingly, when there is a lack of collaboration. If the researcher isn’t informed of the background of the campaign brief, the creative process to date, budgetary factors, client concerns and so on, it’s impossible for them to develop a research approach that fully accounts for all relevant considerations. An experienced researcher doesn’t need to be completely removed from the process to provide an objective view point.
Working towards a common goal
Of course, the onus isn’t solely on the creative and media agencies to drive a more integrated way of working. Research agencies need to work harder to get themselves front of mind with these partners and take a proactive approach to being involved in a client’s business on an ongoing basis. We’ve seen first-hand the benefits for everyone involved when you get it right.
And finally, the role of the client in fostering a collaborative ecosystem of agencies, including market research, cannot be understated. Marketers should expect their agencies to act as ‘partners’, not suppliers, and make appointments based on this frame of mind.
If you’ve got the right partners in place, then you can encourage your agencies to converse and connect without you having to be in the room, because you know that everyone involved shares a common ambition: helping you achieve your marketing goals.
Collaboration shouldn’t be about racking up head hours, but about making sure the right people are involved at the right time in the right way. In the long run, this will lead to more efficient and effective ways of working.