A New Era for Full-Service Creative Agencies

By Jonathan Fraser, co-founder and CSO at Trouble Maker

Everyone in the industry knows that campaigns are better when media and creative are planned together.  With that being the case why does it happen so infrequently?

The real reason is because most agencies don’t have the skill set, structure or business plan to do it and many clients don’t understand the actual benefits.  If they did, they would demand it.

Full service planning is more than contextual advertising, it forces you to have a consumer-centric model of planning that helps you spots the most impactful times and ways to engage audiences, it allows you to outsmart competitors rather than outspend them, and it pushes an agency to care more about the business impact of their work, rather than trying to hit targets that simply prove their particular silo worked. It also means that a smaller group of highly skilled people can cover a workload that would normally be run by teams 3 or 4 times the size.

As brands adopt more social first thinking, built on engagement, fame and talkability, old school processes no longer cut the mustard or pass muster, depending on your preference.

Agencies must adapt and address this issue with a fresh approach; one that allows for agility and speed, and ultimately provides better results than traditional models.

This line of thinking was drilled into me during my time working at the legendary agency Naked. In 2008 our client Coke observed that all its work was led by TV creative, which then bled out to other media channels (in 2008!, 15 years ago!) and this is  a problem many face today.

They tasked us to rethink the planning process to create a more consumer centric model that took advantage of the rapidly fragmenting media landscape (MySpace was killing it).

This request from Coke led to the establishment of the principles of the modern full-service model. Today, Trouble Maker has built our full-service agency on a foundation of these principles but evolved them to fit the practicalities of  today. The key to success involves utilising experienced talent from different disciplines who (really!) work together efficiently to deliver results – and make trouble.

That said, even without that in house skill set there are six principles that everyone should consider when building out a campaign in order to leverage a full-service mindset.  They help you turn one overarching brief into a series of mini briefs that allow you to make sure your campaign has maximum impact and drives business results.

A six-point plan to full service thinking

Before activating the six-point plan, there is one thing that needs to be in place first: a core creative idea, the creative platform that your brand follows for the next 5 years.  This is your guiding light when it comes to activating anything that you uncover along the way:

  • The user journey by examining the current and desired state of the brand, and where you’d love to be. This step allows insights to be gained into user behaviour, pain points to be identified, and throws up the areas where user experience needs enhancing.
  • On and off ramps. We encourage teams to explore what factors could positively or negatively impact a user’s progress along the journey. Explore everything you can think of, ultimately this is your chance to spot those opportunities often overlooked by competitors.
  • Prioritisation. Ask yourselves which are the most important moments to engage people in order to help them move along the consumer journey.
  • Role for comms. Once you have uncovered your most powerful moments, and the most powerful opportunities, ask yourself what does your comms need to do? Does it need to build credibility, drive excitement, educate? Whatever it is, be very clear.
  • Touchpoints. Think of every touchpoint that could deliver you pre identified roles. Go wide, yes TV could be the answer, but equally it might be creating your own TV show, your own channel, or doing a partnership with a tractor manufacturer. EVERYTHING has the power to communicate, big budget, small budget, consider everything that might give you a competitive advantage.
  • Creative briefs. You now have everything you need to turn 1 master brief into 1 or 5 activation briefs that all fit under one campaign. If you think this way, I guarantee you will start realising that it’s easier to outsmart your competition rather than trying to outspend them.

The full-service lowdown

What differentiates this approach from other full-service models is its focus on research, human behaviour, and a belief that there are many routes that can help you achieve a common business goal.

Consider when you see or work on a PR campaign: it is designed and expected to prove the media value to justify the PR outlay. Similarly, when working with media agencies, proving the value of media should be a given. However, few people ever ask about the wider business value of a campaign, or its impact on the business. This process aligns everyone involved to achieve the end result, not just prove their own worth.

Whether or not it’s being led by a full-service agency, this is a process that brings stakeholders together-it helps you think differently, more effectively and more creatively. Also, it’s more fun than doing the same thing every year.