I like straightforward transactions. The best purchase is a "‘good buy" followed quickly by a "goodbye", and I love being able to wave my debit card in the general direction of a till, whether it be in Caffe Nero or Oliver Bonas.
The size of transaction matters though. I’m far less breezy in a furniture store parting with hundreds of pounds, or paying for flooring, a decorator’s time or a family holiday. In these situations I want to feel that the person I’m talking to understands what I’m after.
I don’t need a new best friend, but I do want to be listened to, bounce ideas around and absorb knowledge from someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Home is where the heart is
For individuals the most significant transactions are usually anything to do with our homes or gardens. If you’re in the fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) position of needing to extend or substantially renovate, an architect or designer is who you call upon.
In these situations one’s commitment or engagement is very different to the buying of a skinny latte – you’re creating a statement. You want to debate, float ideas, listen, and visualise the finished work. To get the best out of the experience you have to feel like you’re in it together, on a journey.
The parallels are identical in advertising. There are some situations where advertisers want a package of effective exposure and that’s that. There are many more where the advertising is tailored for the advertisers’ needs, agreed and delivered.
And then there is the most sophisticated level – partnerships. I would use the term partnership to describe any arrangement which goes beyond buying and selling. A partnership doesn’t have to be directly correlated with expense, but media is increasingly complex and taking us far beyond transactions and into the realms of measurement, data, barter, collaboration, knowledge-sharing and many other aspects which tend towards the innovative.
The New Thinking Awards make a point of recognising successful partnerships precisely because they are not the easy, off-the-shelf option.
They need encouragement from those who have experienced what a good partnership is, or what it can become. They are good, normal, workable and a very modern way of doing business. Partnerships are the thinking person’s approach, which isn’t always the answer of course.
A prolonged search for the perfect partner is not required – it isn’t a marriage. I’m not advocating recklessness, but the formation of partnerships seems to be a lower priority than the potential benefits would suggest. Risk aversion is a good instinct in business, but not if it becomes a barrier to doing anything except what worked last year.
At Sky Media, our experiences of partnership are varied but overwhelmingly positive. We take care to ensure that our objectives are in alignment from the outset, which saves a world of pain further down the line.
For those who are adept at dealing with multiple stakeholders, grey areas, multi-faceted arrangements and layers of complexity, the rewards await whether in the form of commercial success, or at an awards ceremony designed to recognise the efforts – just like the New Thinking Awards.
Rachel Bristow is the director of partnerships, Sky Media