Draftfcb: The Wheel

The Wheel is a new way of thinking about teamwork, with people from five disciplines working together. Here, a Wheel team tells us what's different about their new roles and why the Wheel works.

EXPERIENCE ARCHITECT - Matt Hunt, planning director

The term channel planner (or even media strategist) has, frankly, always sounded a bit dry. It has sort of fallen between the two stools of account planner (the midwife/mid-husband of great ideas) and media planner (the finder of increasingly evasive consumers).

Which is why I've never called myself one.

But what if this art/science hybrid were to take on a more modern role? What if it took a broader and more questioning view of the consumer journey from blissful ignorance of a brand to becoming an infectious advocate of it? What if it knew more precisely which media and channels to harness in order to reach the new consumer - when to ask nicely on a social networking site such as Facebook and then shout a reminder in the cinema?

And what if this process wasn't conveniently linear?

Well, now my role is that of "experience architect". While I don't get to make model skyscrapers out of mescaline, I do get to jump around in the same room as our creative, data, business and even client folk, and explain in impassioned tones why an idea might be noticed in the street, but talked about on a beer-mat, be laughed at on UK Living, but forwarded via YouTube.

And, by bringing to life the myriad media and channel choices during rather than after the generation of creative ideas, we get to something far more meaningful, far more potent, far more quickly.

DATA STRATEGIST - Frank Duck, senior data planner

Working as a data consultant-turned-strategist, I deal in fact, not fantasy.

So when I was informed that Draftfcb had decided to reinvent the wheel, I honestly thought that it was another load of American rubbish designed by management consultants who don't understand the core skill of what an ad agency actually does. It's an ideas business, and I help to form those ideas as well as measuring how effective those ideas have been.

However, having spoken with colleagues who had experienced the Wheel's sessions, I began to change my opinion about what this way of working had to offer.

My first chance to experience the Wheel came when working on the 2008 activity for one of my clients. The most notable difference with the Wheel concept is the number of people. Traditionally, I'd only worked with a planner and account management, whereas with the Wheel I'm now working directly with the creative teams and a media expert. The biggest advantage of having the additional skills in the room was being able to quickly and concisely develop the ideas that are put on the table.

Second, the Wheel is not just a concept based around a number of people having ideas. We actually work together in a room surrounded by everything we need to be more creative with our thoughts.

Finally, there's the process. I am not usually a fan of a set way of working, but it really helps focus the mind on what the priorities are and the subsequent steps that are needed to achieve our aim: to deliver not only fantastic ideas, but accountable ideas.

CONTENT CREATOR - Bryn Attewell, creative

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be called Steve. Steves were grown-up and cool and adventurous and stuff. The Six Million Dollar Man was called Steve. Unfortunately, my new name didn't go down well with the folks. And if I'm perfectly honest, I don't think the name Steve would have made a huge difference to my bionic capabilities.

But if changing your moniker as an eight-year-old has its problems, imagine the difficulty in changing the name of someone who's been, arguably, the most important person in the communications industry for the past 40-odd years.

I'm not, as you may have already pointed out to yourself, talking about me. I'm talking about the "creative", or as we at Draftfcb now prefer it, the "content creator".

Now when the laughter dies down, I must point out that no-one is suggesting that we do away with the "C" word. Creative, as a job title, will doubtless be around for some time yet.

But while the industry won't start referring to content creator departments overnight, most will agree that our roles are changing, and if that's the case, then surely it makes sense to try to redefine what we do.

Content creator is our way of saying that we create big ideas as part of a team, and that those ideas can work in any and every channel. Which is how it should be in an age when ideas are no longer the sole preserve of those in the creative department and creative solutions aren't limited to 30-second television spots.

So there you go. Steve Attewell, content creator. Sounds good to me.

INSIGHT CATALYST - Tanya Weintrobe, planning director

I looked up "the wheel" on my favourite website, Wikipedia. It defines the wheel as "facilitating movement or performing labour in machines". How very apt. Within our Wheel teams, we are more productive. Getting five heads from different perspectives at a table means we can thrash out problems more efficiently (the performing labour part). This means we get to better solutions and make them happen faster (the facilitating movement part).

I also looked up "reinventing the wheel" - it also has an entry on Wikipedia. Of course, good teamwork isn't a new idea in agency life, but previously it was left up to the more brilliant individuals to gather their flock for a problem-solving session, and this didn't always happen. As a planner, I sometimes found myself rolled out to look good in front of clients, and then rolled back to the planning silo to get on with planning "stuff". Here, our Wheel teams are embedded into the structure and culture of the agency. No more silos. It's that old nugget that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But here it's real and it's coming to life.

Wikipedia lists "alternatives to the wheel". Dragging with runners? Doesn't sound very productive. Being carried, as on a stretcher? Well, maybe after the office party. Being raised by hot air pressure? No, I'm not happy with those alternatives. Our system is good. Wheely good.

BUSINESS BUILDER - Sharon Jiggins, deputy head account management

Having been in client services at Draft, now Draftfcb, for ten years now (but to be fair we have gone through a few name changes), it was perhaps with a sense of deja vu that I greeted the arrival of yet another new way of working. Usually a move like this in an agency starts off promisingly, but tends to lose steam. This isn't so surprising given that we're talking about a new process being foisted on a bunch of people who chose to work in an environment where the lack of rigidity was one of the perks.

But this has been a welcome change. Call me old-fashioned, but the Wheel represents a huge opportunity for account management to get back to basics. More collaborative working - tick; getting the right people involved early enough - tick; understanding our clients' business - tick; putting the consumer at the heart of what we do - big tick. Therefore, redefining account management as "business builders" shouldn't shake our foundations, rather it restates the essential building blocks.

Yes, client organisations are more complex, the media landscape is more fragmented, mass consumerism is dead and we should never forget the environment. But just because we live in frenetic times, this is not an excuse to take shortcuts. And if returning to the core values of account handling raises the bar, adds value to client business and ultimately enables us to deliver on Return on Ideas(TM) ... then bring it on.