Matthew Heath, chief strategy officer, LIDA
Matthew Heath, chief strategy officer, LIDA
A view from Matthew Heath

Think BR: Keeping your head above water

How can agencies manage their workload while still maintaining creativity, asks Matthew Heath, chief strategy officer, Lida.

It’s a familiar problem. How many times have you felt buried in the hard work of trying to get today’s campaign completed against the clock and feeling the pressure of it needing to perform against the challenge of a tight budget and a difficult brief? 

For both clients and agencies it can feel like a never-ending task to stay above water, making sure that the current marketing communications output is doing its job as it needs to, in a world where accountability is more important than ever.

This necessary focus on delivering today has some obvious drawbacks for both the shorter and the longer term.

In the short term it is easy for the classic marketing discipline of test and learn to be sacrificed on the altar of time pressure and expediency.

In the longer term the real cracks can appear. We all understand that the advent of new technologies, along with new commercial and consumer pressures, is putting both business models and marketing strategies under new strain. 

If agencies spend all their time delivering for today will they be unprepared for the new realities of tomorrow?

For many brands tomorrow will be a new era. O2, for example, acknowledges that its business is going through unprecedented revolution, with the next two years seeing more change than since the formation of Cellnet back in 1985.

No longer will the brand thrive or even survive as a purveyor of voice calls and data; it needs to reinvent itself as a data driven provider of a wide range of new services.

Retail brands are also undergoing a huge transformation based on emerging technologies and consumer behaviours which are changing their landscape. Even new digital brands are finding it hard to nail down their exact place in our lives.

The conclusion from all this incoming change is simple. The marketing communications of today will not be fit for purpose in the brave new world of tomorrow. So the challenge becomes delivering for today while preparing for tomorrow. 

 Three simple numbers can revolutionise the way that the client/agency relationship should focus time, energy and investment to meet these new challenges … 70/20/10.

This model is based on an idea from US business guru Vijay Govindarajan in which he suggests that business leaders should visualise three boxes.

Box one manages the present, box two selectively forgets the past and box three creates the future.

His question is how much effort should be applied by businesses in each box. His answer is that the approximate balance should be 70% for box one, then 20% and finally 10%.

So I believe the best way to meet ever-changing marketing challenges is to split it as follows:

  • 70% of effort focused on delivering brilliantly for today
  • 20% testing and learning for the near future of tomorrow
  • 10% pushing frontiers, experimenting and innovating for the more distant future

This approach can keep an agency and its clients anchored in the reality of having to deliver brilliantly today, but never running out of time for the opportunity to be more innovative and forward-looking.

It provides an effective way to manage both the input of time and the output of ideas that are valuable not only at a brand and communications level, but also at the level of customer and business strategy.

Don’t drown in the demands of the short term, but keep steadily swimming towards an interesting future.

Matthew Heath, chief strategy officer, Lida