Written by Suzanne Burrows on November 4, 2014
in Organizational Design

At this time of year, many of our clients are working with their agency partners on planning for 2015. And as we head into the new year, our clients have an unyielding focus on maximizing their marketing investment to get the best results, drive customer loyalty, and deliver on their business KPI’s. There are important evaluations on best practices from the previous year, lessons learned, strategic insights, executional excellence, and prioritizing the projects that will really make a difference. However, there is one area that should also be a part of your yearly planning: Client-Agency relationships.

We encourage our clients to include strategies and tactics to optimize their multiple agency partners that bring best of class thinking and execution to their business in their 2015 plans. There are efficiencies that can drive savings and collaborative models that can make integrated planning that much more impactful.

One model we encourage our clients to think about is what we here at Ariad call the Inter-Agency Team (IAT) model. We believe it to be one of the most effective ways to build a best-in-class marketing mix by utilizing the specialized expertise of multiple agency partners.

What is the IAT model?

The Inter Agency Team (IAT) model is a collaborative approach to agency management that brings together multiple agencies who represent the same brand in a team environment toward the accomplishment of shared goals.

The IAT provides the client with ‘best of breed’ agency support by bringing deep subject matter expertise across numerous marketing disciplines. These partners are goal-aligned with a shared set of values, and all have clarity around their roles and objectives. Their common goal and commitment – to each other and to the client – is to collaboratively bring world-class, integrated work to meet the client’s marketing and business objectives.

How and why does it work?

The IAT model allows the client to reap the benefit of deep subject matter expertise across multiple agencies and promotes partnership between the agencies. Here are five ways that the IAT model is superior to a single-agency model:

1. Focus: A successful IAT works toward a common goal, elevating planning and execution through a synergistic approach that allows each agency to focus on what they do best.

2. Clear mandates: Clearly defined roles and delineation of responsibilities encourages a holistic approach to the planning, execution

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and implementation of an integrated marketing plan (especially when compared to working in siloes or competing for the same piece of work).

3. Efficiency: The IAT model promotes efficiencies in-terms of Client management of its agency partners, by establishing “all agency” update meetings and presentations. This minimizes the need to brief agency teams individually or act as a ‘middle man’ between teams. It also stretches client’s budgets by leveraging efficiencies.

4. Transparency, continuity and consistency: A successful IAT is one that meets regularly (weekly/bi-weekly) during key planning/execution phases, encourages open communication and shared learning across the teams, and shares the responsibility to build and manage program budgets and KPIs.

5. Risk management: A well-functioning IAT helps limit risk in several key areas of marketing management: consistency of message and factual/offer details, execution/production/channel details and alignment across LOB stakeholders.

With unique expertise, differentiated capabilities and specific roles defined, inter-agency ‘competition’ is minimized as each team represents a fundamental need that contributes to business success. By delineating the specific roles and responsibilities of each team, agencies can confidently work in collaboration:

1. With the mandate to deliver on a holistic plan
2. Without the concern of defending business scope among agencies.

The IAT does not work if it is not a true collaboration. At its worse, the IAT represents the Lead Agency allocating token work to the other agencies. At its best, the result is a collaboration of smart, motivated and engaged people working in concert to do outstanding work for the client.

What does this mean for my business?

By opting for an IAT, you can ensure that each channel or area of expertise is handled by an agency that excels in that field, rather than a “one-stop-shop” solution that may deliver subpar work in core competencies where an agency may be weakest. Beware of agencies that say they can do it all, as they simply don’t get the model or spirit of an IAT. Some examples of core areas of expertise are:

  • Media planning
  • Public Relations
  • Content Development
  • Direct Response
  • Local Area Marketing
  • Strategy
  • Digital
  • Activation
  • Mass
  • Social

Here at Ariad, we believe that the best work comes from people who know their capabilities, verticals, and audience inside-out. It’s why we strive to bring beautiful thinking to everything we do in our core areas of Strategy, Digital, Content, and Activation. But we also appreciate the work of our peers in the areas that we do not serve, and understand the need for brands to have a fully cohesive and holistic marketing mix that operates across a wide variety of channels. We believe in the IAT model because we’ve seen it work time and time again for our clients, because we know where we can excel and where we cannot, and because at the end of the day, we’re here to help our clients choose the right ways to grow their business.

Suzanne Burrows is a Group Account Director at Ariad Communications

Teamwork designed by factor[e] design initiative from the Noun Project

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