Why great campaigns don’t happen without discipline and dependability.


It’s easy for some agency departments to take all the plaudits, like the flash bastards in a football team. It’s usually the mercurial forwards of the creative team with their quicksilver talents, prolific goalscoring and hedonistic lifestyles. Or on occasion it might be the beard stroking Andrea Pirlos of the strategy team who ping in a perfect free kick from 40 yards.

That’s the stuff that grabs attention, but it’s not worth much on its own because there needs to be a disciplined team around them. As Alex Ferguson said, “once you bid farewell to discipline you say goodbye to success.”

It’s the same in agencies, where a whole range of different skills need to be applied with dedication to produce effective campaigns. But they won’t grab the headlines, apart from that time Dave from client services pulled his jumper over his head and slid across the floor on his knees at a client meeting.



What’s more, not everyone can or should do all of these roles – different skillsets and personalities are needed. In our darker moments we’ve been tempted to let our strategy director run studio scheduling for a week, but on balance having a job at the end of it has always been preferable. Ultimately, this is about dependability.

If an agency says it’s going to do something then it should do everything in its powers to make that happen. Moreover, it should have the right people in the right roles to make sure that process is as smooth as possible. This strong account management is the key link that takes a campaign from being a great idea to getting great commercial results and winning awards.

That discipline needs to run all the way through a project, right from the start. Communication between client and account managers must be at the right frequency and quality if work is to be completed accurately as promptly as possible. That must be coupled with a clear, phased plan so there’s clarity on what is to happen, when and who needs to be involved. Strong project management skills are a must if this is to be achieved.

Particular skills are needed at different stages of campaigns, too. Research relies on getting a critical mass of quality, ideally first-hand, information and can often involve speaking to a wide variety of people and marshalling the information gathered into a useful format. That can only be done effectively with an organised approach, spinning the various plates associated with corralling research contacts, not to mention the researchers themselves.

Once a clear go to market plan has been established it will stand or fall on strong tactical execution, and this isn’t something you want to let the impulsive gits in the flashy departments anywhere near. Understanding the media channels being used and how to get the best from them, whilst keeping to that project plan in all its small but critical detail, is a borderline art form that good account managers have perfected.

Discipline in the creative industries might well be underrated, but we recognise that it’s an essential factor in making sure we get great results for clients – not just great ideas.

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