Imagine for a moment that you’re a high-powered, highly paid creative mind at a leading ad agency. Your job is to conjure ideas out of thin air. At the end of the month, those ideas are exchanged for a paycheck. In this Mad Men ecosystem, individuals jealously guard their ideas, making damn sure everyone knows who was responsible for which miraculous piece of copy, which genius layout, which inspired jingle. In agencies, and even some client cultures, outdated attitudes like these persist—even though the best ideas rarely are, or ever have been, developed in a vacuum. They’re more like a barn raising – the product of input, inspiration, refinement, and execution contributed by many.
Mechanica is a next-generation branding firm, and is also Communispace’s agency. We simultaneously tap multiple creative teams and demand collaboration in the process, not just by the “creatives,” but also by the creative part of all of us. Does that diminish the Creative Director’s role, power, or value? Not at all. In this “WE have an idea” environment, the CD’s role is all the more important as an initiator, advocate, curator, and champion of ideas.
This philosophy also allows an agency to welcome, rather than begrudge, client and other agency ideas. Why shouldn’t client experts contribute to solving their own problems? What law says a PR shop can’t have an advertising brainstorm? Or an advertising agency a product idea? An open agency like Mechanica shapes the best output from a wider range of input.
If a collaborative agency culture is level one, and client/partner input is level two, then level three is input and ideas from actual prospects and customers of your brand, perhaps facilitated by a private Communispace community. Fallon Community Health Plan, a client shared by Mechanica and Communispace, is currently using Communispace to co-create their next HMO products, literally bringing target audiences and consumers into the process.
Instead of dividing an idea’s glory, the “WE” approach multiplies its impact. Instead of players jealously keeping score of their own triumphs, the team always wins.
What are your examples of idea collaboration gone good—and bad?