Better together: The Business of working in partnership
The world of marketing is changing faster than ever, with fragmentation and innovation around every corner. What does this mean for the future of agency/client relationships? Is the traditional approach still relevant and how does a client get the best from its agency in this new world?
Three years ago, Kraft Heinz communications manager Tina Wong was looking for a new agency and had a clear vision of how she needed the relationship to work.
“We were looking for an agency that could work through the line, as previously we’d been trying to piece together the parts internally and it wasn’t working,” Wong says. “We needed someone who could do the big concept idea and take it right through to all areas including in-store, digital and viral Facebook posts.”
With 37 live brands and running an average of 26 campaigns a year, Kra Heinz is a demanding, hard-working client that needs their agency to be efficient, innovative and reliable. Trust is also a major factor - their internal marketing team is made up of over 20 senior staff who have seen agencies come and go.
The Business Marketing Group was appointed to the account and the win sparked the beginning of a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship which has grown and adapted to the needs of the ever-changing market.
Launched 12 years ago by managing director Ben Cochrane, the Parnell-based agency is breaking down traditional perceptions of the dynamics between clients and their agency.
As Kraft Heinz is a massive contender in the corporate world, agencies were itching for the chance to pitch for the account. What was the difference that made The Business come out on top? They showed they could deliver the 360-degree work that Kra Heinz required with great attitude.
“What attracted me to The Business was that they were willing and open. When I first met Ben we clicked, and there was a certain level of honesty and transparency.”
The Business has been able to fulfil all of Kraft Heinz needs, from the creation of their advertising right down to the management of the company’s many Facebook
pages, including Food in a Minute, Wattie’s, Heinz, For Baby, Chef, Good Taste Company, F. Whitlock & Sons and Gregg’s.
Since the appointment, the way that The Business works with Kra Heinz has transformed, shifting away from traditional marketing as the relationship continues to strengthen.
Both believe in working in partnership, rather than the more conventional client-agency model.
What exactly does ‘partnership’ look like? One aspect includes Wong and team dealing directly with creative director Craig Farndale, rather than navigating through a process of account directors. The Business operates outside the traditional hierarchy of an agency – choosing to work in a flat structure instead.
“It’s just really important to have open lines of communication, so you can be honest about when you’re stuck and need help,” she says.
“I get to have a one-on-one relationship with the creative director, which at a big agency you don’t o en get. And o en it’s those side conversations that spark something, and the team really value that.”
Cochrane insists that this streamlined way of doing business is down to his pursuit of efficiency, ensuring the client receives an experience that works for them.
“We have to be really efficient and that’s why the at structure works. The fact that a client like Kra Heinz can ring a creative director directly, or sit next to studio and work though outdoor layouts would horrify a lot of agencies, but you have to trust in your people. Creative will also buy into the conversation a lot more than if it was through a suit coming to talk to them. I don’t think the old model is the way of the future.”
On a recent strategy and leadership course at Harvard Business School in Boston, Cochrane learned the importance of continuing to innovate and grow. But in order to do so without crashing or defaulting to a more traditional model, he says that laying a foundation of functioning systems is key.
“We have to put in the right structures and not just flood the place with middle management as we grow. I think that’s where people go wrong, they get too hierarchical too quickly and become bureaucratic, which is the last thing you want in an agency because the wheels fall off.”
The Business has been growing steadily since 2007, with a future heading towards further expansion of the team, technology, and services. Originally it ran as a consultancy, however as demand grew it transformed into a full- service offering which has doubled in size in the past two years.
The strategy for their growth is simple but effective. Work alongside clients, adapt to their needs and challenge the status quo, with a fanatical focus on strategy and business nous.
“The clients who just want to spit out traditional, prescriptive stuff and don’t value innovation or have the culture to do so aren’t the ones who are going to get us to the place we want to be. Client sales results are our trophy cabinet – and that cabinet is growing” Cochrane says.
“If a client suggests we move in a particular direction, for example, a new digital offering, and we can’t do it, we’ll make the decision to develop that skill or partner with someone who has it – and get there quickly.”
As The Business has expanded, Cochrane is conscious of looking after his staff, with his aim being low turn-over and making sure everyone’s got each other’s back. Part of that is collaborating on creative ideas and strategies with the whole team on aspects of campaigns to make sure everyone feels like they’ve got a stake in all the work which is produced. For Cochrane, one of the most important things for an innovative team is to run with discipline.
“Everyone has a clear idea of how their job relates to the vision of the agency and is incentivised to show the behaviours that we want to see, and the values in the company are very strong. That’s a big difference, we’re not just turning up to work every day answering briefs. There’s more care involved. We don’t always wait for briefs to find opportunities for clients.”
In the last 18 months, their digital and social media services have been a powerhouse of growth. Alongside the management and content creation of all the Kra Heinz social accounts, the team also manages, copywrites and designs visuals for Fujitsu, Modica Group, Eastridge shopping centre, Selaks Wines, Jack Daniel’s, Jägermeister, and Kim Crawford’s local and Australian social channels.
“We have superb creative, teamed up with discipline,” Cochrane says. “We’re not a crazy creative company, the creativity comes into the ideas and the strategy, but you have to be super-efficient when you’re managing so many daily social posts. That’s good for the client as they’re not paying for inefficiency.”
The Business and Kraft Heinz illustrate how the future of a successful agency/ client relationship lies in nimble structures, a culture of innovation, an immersion in the client’s business – plus an absolute commitment to honesty and trust.