Up for a brand orgy that will take your agency/client relationship to the next level?
A view from Al Moseley

Up for a brand orgy that will take your agency/client relationship to the next level?

Gladiatorial combat is not the best way for marketers and agencies to engage, writes Al Moseley, the president and chief creative officer at 180 Amsterdam.

Last month in Cannes, I took to the stage dressed in a toga to talk about Roman orgies. This apparently bizarre subject matter for a festival of creativity was a result of what we at 180 Amsterdam see as a major issue for agencies that want to succeed as partners of global marketing organisations.

It feels that, as clients become less loyal and more likely to work with roster agencies, and agency margins come under more pressure, there’s a danger that our work becomes little more than a visit into the centre of the Colosseum.

Jumping into the gladiatorial arena, battling it out till the death, all trying to impress the emperor in the hope that one day we’ll get a seat alongside him or her. Because that’s what we all want, right? A seat at the top, sitting alongside the global chief marketing officer with an overview of the entire brand ecosystem, empowered to make decisions that will truly benefit the business.

As clients become less loyal and more likely to work with roster agencies, and agency margins come under more pressure, there’s a danger that our work becomes little more than a visit into the centre of the Colosseum.

When gladiators start fighting, their ultimate aim is to earn freedom. But after a while, all they can really think of is surviving the next deadly encounter. This is exactly what our problem is: we lose track of the big picture and get lost in constant battle.

Instead of doing what’s right for the business, we do what’s right for us. Getting the next piece of work over the line becomes more important than the quality of the work. And appeasing the CMO trumps appealing to our target consumers.

In addition to agencies not helping themselves, some clients – it’s sad to say – seem to revel in their role as emperors. Reigning supreme, deciding who and what lives and dies with a single turn of the thumb like the emperors of old. And, as a result, the tough decisions made this way mean the agency is either wrong or right, with fatal consequences.

This creates an atmosphere of fear, going against everything our industry should be about. Fear doesn’t inspire great creative thinking – freedom does. It creates self-serving thinking that betrays the objectives of the brief and of our profession.

There has to be a better way than the emperor ruling his brand, agencies battling to the death in the arena and ideas lying dead while Rome slowly burns to the ground. Enter the Roman orgy. Before you decide that maybe you’re not cut out for an orgy, bear with me as there’s actually a lot we can take from this age-old feast of sexual adventure.

For one, there was a very clear ambition. The purpose was clear and everyone knew what he or she was there for. This meant that everyone was aligned and working to the same outcome. Everyone knew the rules and trusted each other. There was no room for mistrust, misbehaviour or jealousy, allowing for a freeing atmosphere.

Fear doesn’t inspire great creative thinking – freedom does. It creates self-serving thinking that betrays the objectives of the brief and of our profession.

Everyone was expected to bring something to the table. No-one would be there just for the sake of being there. Everyone participated and added something special. And, finally, creativity was encouraged. As you can imagine, experimentation was welcomed, as everyone was searching for new ways to make things as satisfying as possible.

Now, before we get too carried away, I just want to make a couple of things very clear. When looking at a "brand orgy", I’m not implying creativity by committee. Brands and businesses need the best ideas, not the lowest common denominator.

Furthermore, the orgy analogy is about group sex, not groupthink. Ideas should be able to spark off other ideas and that’s only possible in an atmosphere where creativity and experimentation are encouraged.

This type of agency/client relationship doesn’t only put agencies where they want to be, it will mean the most innovative and cutting-edge creative thinking can be done, benefiting both the agency and the client.

So, are you ready for a brand orgy? Are you ready to take your agency/client relationship to the next level? If you are, there are three questions worth asking yourself:

Is everyone clear on the ambition? Every single person involved with your brand or project needs to know why they’re there and what the aim is.

Is everyone empowered to contribute in a positive way? It’s important for everyone involved to know their input is valued because, in the end, it doesn’t matter where the idea comes from – what matters is achieving the ambition.

Lastly, is everyone prepared to push the boundaries? Now, I’m not saying this is easy. But if nobody is ready to get naked first, nothing is going to happen. We don’t progress by continuously staying within the borders of what we know. We have to leave our comfort zones to push ourselves to the next level.

Most importantly, though, let’s enjoy it, because what’s the point of a brand orgy if no-one is having fun?

Al Moseley is the president and chief creative officer at 180 Amsterdam.