Keep your eyes on the prize, not on the opposition

  • PR
  • October 29, 2012
  • Sue Hamilton
Keep your eyes on the prize, not on the opposition

The knives are out. The scheming is relentless. It’s a non-stop real-time game of RISK where allegiances swap on a frantic basis and territories are exchanged and invaded. Rather than marcomms it’s DEFCON5. We’re in a whole new era where the PR agency is battling with the activation agency, and creative agencies are muscling in on both territories because we’re all after the Holy Grail: the truly integrated communications campaign. 

At the heart of the matter is the idea and—heard it once, heard it a million times—‘great ideas can come from anywhere’. Only issue is that it’s who gets to execute and bill for the idea that’s creating some tension in the boardroom. Equally it’s apparent that the exceptional effort that goes into idea generation is fast losing its value—because ‘G.I.C.C.F.A’. The dogfight over idea ownership is heating up and PR/activation agencies are smack-bang in the middle.

What’s more, it’s an almost universal experience (we confess this is from a sample of a few, but ‘know’ it to be the truth) that campaign budgets are increasingly stretched by the demands of having to be everywhere, on every platform, and to be edgy, moving, interactive and all-consuming. In addition, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to clip the ticket with pressure all round on margins and mark-ups. 

The finance teams appear to be the busiest in the agency as they jostle numbers from one side of the balance sheet to the other, while the dream teams and the account service teams are flat out over-servicing pressured clients struggling to keep their brands on supermarket shelves and second-guessing estimates that stretch to cover everything from press releases and web banners to augmented reality and Facebook campaigns.

What’s to be done? 

A.     Suck it up: just get on with it, it’s the new world order 

B.     Fight back: energetically talk up how valuable ideas are and that they need to be whole, actually connect and be more than a price offer or a ‘thrilled to announce’.

C.     Join forces: actually embrace our Kiwi ‘no degrees of separation’ and work together openly, honestly and with no agenda. Go Dutch. Split the bill. Be fair.

D.    And naturally there’s a combination of it all. There’s always ‘D’.

The Marcomms Leadership Group carries the flag for all New Zealand PR and activation agencies to rally behind. Egos and patches should be left at the door.  Introductions and mash-ups should be offered and made with a whole-of-market view. ‘I might be bloody fantastic at this, while you are astounding at that.’ We have a chance to join forces and work on the solution together. In fact, in little New Zealand we have an opportunity to set a whole new benchmark for idea collaboration and delivery. 

There’s an innate generosity in Kiwis that’s evident in many other industries where people feel comfortable to share ideas in the hope that someone else will take it, grow it and break every record going. Paraphrasing openly, but Sir Richard Taylor (Weta Workshop) said recently that their ‘pour the concrete and bugger the boxing’ culture is the reason for their massive success and he’ll listen and look at anything and everything, provided the idea generator is in it wholeheartedly. You just never know once you start ‘pouring’ where you might end up. 

PR is and always has been about ideas, but we’ve moved way beyond sharing those ideas with words, meaning and timing. What we’re doing now is vastly different from what we were doing even five years ago. Now PR agencies are ideas factories with grunty insights, one-on-one connections with consumers, inspiring events, ardent advocates, music vids and games with paint guns.

PR people have always been the experts at joining the dots and connecting people. That’s what integration is really about. If an idea doesn’t surround you, consume you to the point where you are moved, you scream at the screen, you giggle, re-Tweet or share by the water-cooler, then it ain’t worth a hill of beans.

If we really think that we’re the ones going over the top, the ones leading the charge of the creative brigade, and we’re setting new standards, then we should also be working on new ways of working together with every other ideas hothouse. 

As Georg Lichtenberg said: "Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together." Let’s make that about both time and location. With the idea at the core, let’s rally the troops, fight for creativity and flawless reasoning, and celebrate ingenuity and exceptional delivery—no matter who does it—as long as it works. We can argue about the bill later.  

  • Sue Hamilton is group account director at Spark Activate. 

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