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? 

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

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’.

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.

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

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

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

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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