Collaboration is all the rage - but it has its limits
A view from Gideon Spanier

Collaboration is all the rage - but it has its limits

Collaboration and creativity are two major themes at Media360, Campaign's annual conference for brands, media owners and media agencies, taking place this week in Brighton.

Most outsiders would say it makes sense for creative people, who dream up ideas, and media people, who distribute and broadcast those messages to a wider audience, to work together. Digital technology already means it’s possible for the execution and distribution of creative to happen in real time, and it will only increase as automation allows ads and content to be personalised and targeted at scale.

However, many brands and agency groups still treat creative and media as separate silos – the latter too often driven by price, volume and procurement.

It is tempting to think that, in the push for greater integration, things might change.

Asda recently moved its creative and media accounts to Saatchi & Saatchi and Blue 449, which are both owned by Publicis Groupe, because the troubled supermarket wants them to work in the same building as part of a marketing reboot.

News UK has gone further. Staff employed by its agencies, which include The & Partnership and Wunderman, are already based in the newspaper group’s offices. Now they are forming an "in-house" agency with one P&L account, aided by the fact the external agencies are all part of the WPP family.

Agencies are also evolving – whether it is media agencies experimenting with creative, creative shops trying to buy media, or big groups such as Havas bringing all their agencies under one roof.

Yet all this supposed collaboration may have its limits.

When Transport for London recently reviewed its creative and media, it picked VCCP and MEC, which are under different ownership. "We did debate whether we should put the creative and media into the same group, but decided to go for ‘best in breed’," TfL’s marketing chief Chris Macleod said. He does not expect the agencies to sit in the same office.

Indeed, Andrew Stephens, co-founder of Goodstuff Communications, argues that "constructive friction" between different creative and media agencies can be beneficial. He identifies a different problem – that big media agencies are so powerful that they can block dialogue between the creative agency and the media owner – and is trying to do his bit to change that by bringing them together at a networking event.

Collaboration doesn’t have to involve physical proximity or shared ownership. It is a state of mind.