If you are looking for integrated communications support on a global scale, you most likely think of three options;
- Global agency;
- Unaffiliated agency network;
- In-house marketing team.
Unfortunately, each have their drawbacks.
Global agencies prove inflexible and costly; unaffiliated agency networks struggle with consistency of communication and trying to manage your communications in-house often leads to cultural misunderstanding. However, there’s a fourth and more viable option, the ‘Associate Agency Partnership’ which presents a comprehensive solution to each of the aforementioned challenges.
The Associate Agency Partnership allows leading independent agencies to work formally with counterparts in other countries in order to deliver seamless and focused services to international clients. These associate agencies choose to work together, share the same business ethos, and collaborate internationally. Not only does this approach provide the best in-country expertise to meet specific business requirements, but the formal alliance ensures a consistency and unity across all teams rarely found in unaffiliated networks of rival agencies.
How to ensure communications success
By combining the best aspects of global agencies and unaffiliated networks, the Associate Agency Partnership – such as the Plexus Group – proves to be most effective in achieving the eight tenets of successful integrated communications:
- Team selection: Having the opportunity to use the right consultants for a particular task or market, working with the best talent in each country. An Associate Agency Partnership provides this, allowing clients to select the make-up of each team based on individual specialisms;
- Effective collaboration: Consultants who work together by choice and not because of corporate ties and responsibilities tend to go that extra mile for one another. Associate agencies provide a structure that encourages the development of supportive relationships based on, but not wholly dependent, on common interests and a commitment to communication and collaboration;
- Intimate country knowledge: Clients need the reassurance that there is real local market knowledge and expertise such as regulatory insight, in-region marketing practice nuances, media and analyst relationships, and cultural empathy in every territory they’re operating within. Associate Agency Partnerships bring together leading local independent agencies to guarantee this, something that cannot be guaranteed by working with a single global agency, where the quality of individual country teams are variable;
- Access to senior counsel: When working with large global agencies, ready access to senior counsel is often promised but rarely delivered. In an Associate Agency Partnership, clients can speak to senior members of any team whenever they wish, receiving deep insights and unique views based on local market conditions and events;
- Extensive tools and insights: Associate agencies distinguish themselves through specialist sector expertise and a more personal service, providing better ROI and a transparent client-agency relationship. This spans PR, influencer relations, demand generation, digital and content marketing, social and digital comms and the effective ‘transcreation’ of marketing concepts and brand values. An associate agency partnership brings this level of service together in every country, creating a global team that is even more than the sum of its parts;
- Big doesn’t mean better: A frequent misunderstanding is that large global agencies have a more superior calibre of communications consultant than mid-sized agencies. This is a massive misconception. Within mid-sized agencies consultants have a greater opportunity to develop a more comprehensive range of marketing skill sets and do not become pigeon-holed in one particular area of the marketing mix as is often the case within the large agencies;
- Client satisfaction: Client satisfaction is critical to business success for a mid-sized agency and losing a client has a far more negative impact on their bottom line than it would for a branch of a multinational. Ultimately this makes independent agencies ‘hungrier’, more focussed on delivering tangible results that positively impact upon a client’s bottom line, which in turn means a better ROI for clients.
- Flexibility: An Associate Agency Partnership ensures the client can quickly ‘mix and match’ to retain what works and discard what doesn’t. For example, with a global agency network there is little that can be done if the client team in one specific territory proves to be a weak link.
By Louise Stewart-Muir, Joint MD, SAY Communications. This article was first published on the Plexus Group.