Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

  • Digital
  • March 4, 2013
  • Tom Bates
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Most organisations have altered the way they work and the processes they use as a platform for innovation, creativity and the day to day. And agencies that are not embracing this revolution are finding it increasingly hard to deliver work at the pace required to a high standard while being profitable in digital channels in the way they once were with TV and other traditional media.

When searching for inspiration for Contagion, we looked to our heroes like AKQA, Razorfish and BBH New York to find a different perspective. And it became clear that ‘Agile Thinking’ was a great model to work to in a non-linear, fast paced day and age.

‘Agile Thinking’ is defined by using multiple-skilled people in different teams from the start to finish of a project in a much more collaborative way. Having media, creative technologists and planners all working closely with the creative and production teams at every stage of the process means that you can reach better solutions faster. This was exemplified recently when Oreo turned around a piece of content when the lights went out during the Super Bowl. Essentially, it went from idea to execution in less than 30 minutes and within the hour it had become a viral sensation. It achieved this because the decision-makers were all in the same room and they had the ability (read: empowerment and confidence) to be agile. Marketing folk were applauding Oreo for this amazing feat. But although it should be heralded for its creativity, this should be standard.

This agility is just as important when a campaign is in market. Constant optimisation of creative and media placements on the back of results gives you the chance to get better as the campaign goes on and react when an opportunity arises. 

Greg Andersen, the chief executive of BBH New York, summed this up nicely: “In a way, we manage our communications campaigns like a portfolio of stocks. If we have a million dollars, we think about spending it on getting ten things into market at once to see where we should pull or double support.”

There are other processes digitally-enabled agencies are adopting that are worth paying attention to. Firstly, employing ‘problem solving’ type thinkers that are curious about learning and excited by change, but also have one core specialty skill to bring to the team. Collaboration is also key and an emphasis on co-creation really does lift a project from being just good to great. Our philosophy is ‘We, the agency, only have 50 percent of the answer’, which means the client needs to be a partner in the project. Hence why our ‘account directors’ are called ‘client partners’. This is something that drives joint ownership of projects and is particularly important at the time a strategy develops. 

Rather than a ‘hope this works’ mentality, having your clients and a small closed group of your target market involved gives you the opportunity to iron out any minor bugs before going live. This is increasingly important in mobile and social media where the constantly shifting platforms and updates mean you need to see it being used to get a feel of how it would best be used by a customer.

The last thing that really propels us forward today is real-time insights. Social listening tools like Radian 6 mine for data and give great insights. We also use Google Hangouts and Skype for virtual focus groups, to test hypotheses and ideas, often—literally—at a moment’s notice.

The world we live and work in is only going to keep changing at velocity. It is the agency’s job to build a business that can support the ever-changing demands of our clients and their customers. And this means using processes and technology in a way that enables better briefs, better work and better ideas. 


  • Tom Bates is social influence director at Contagion. 
  • This article originally appeared in the March/April edition of NZ Marketing. 

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