Gone are the days of the full-service advertising agency, providing integrated support across a broad range of marketing disciplines. Today, advertisers rely on a network of marketing services agencies that specialize in specific functional areas, geographies or diversity segments. The net effect of this shift is that the number of agencies which comprise an advertiser’s agency network has mushroomed. The question one might consider; “Is a larger network of specialist agencies more than a smaller network effective?”
With this question in mind, it was with great interest that I read a paper entitled; “Why individuals in larger teams perform worse.” The paper was based upon a study conducted by Jennifer Mueller, Professor of Management at Wharton who sought to explore team size and the impact on individual performance. The parallels between individuals serving on a team and specialty agencies collaborating as part of a vendor network are quite striking.
Professor Mueller found that the cost of collaboration was higher for larger teams. Of note, one of the “costs” identified in the study was tied to less time available to form meaningful relationships that boost productivity with each member of the team. How many firms make up an advertiser’s agency network? The numbers can grow to be quite unwieldy when you consider the combination of creative services shops, media agencies, digital agencies, diversity agencies, DM agencies, PR shops, social media agencies, research firms, printers and so forth. Have client-side Marketing staffs grown sufficiently to effectively manage large, diverse vendor networks and to nurture meaningful relationships with each?
One of the other bi-products of large teams was an increased level of stress tied to uncertainty regarding “who to turn to” or to call on when a question or a need arises. This scenario when viewed in the context of the lack of role clarity and responsibilities that exemplify many agency networks and their client-side sponsors can lead to both “relational loss” and “coordination loss” each of which can impede productivity, fuel stress and negatively impact the quality of work.
The key finding of the study was that while larger groups may perform better than smaller groups (up to a point), individuals on smaller teams performed better than individuals on larger teams. Professor Mueller was able to determine that the lack of connectivity between members of a larger team was the key driver of lower productivity.
Thus the challenge for advertisers managing a large agency network is to determine a means of enhancing connectivity between those agencies in a manner which leverages their respective areas of specialization while synchronizing the efforts of the team as a whole. Improved connectivity can aid team building efforts and boost relational strengths. Professor Mueller suggests the appointment of a “troubleshooter” to serve as a quarterback or “go to” person for each team member to turn to when problems solving support is required. Many advertisers have attempted to leverage their agency of record to serve on point in the capacity of “troubleshooter.” However, history shows us that the notion of a “lead agency” serving as the go to contact for other firms in the agency network is fraught with challenges and often proves to be an exercise in futility. Preferably, the “troubleshooter” should be a representative or representatives of the client’s Marketing Team, which more directly supports the goal facilitating disparate vendor organizations to work together in an efficient, connected manner to optimize the organization’s marketing investment.
The addition of a “go to” representative when augmented with clear roles, responsibilities and contract/ compensation models tied to desired performance outcomes is an excellent method for integrating the efforts of a marketing agency network. Further, continuously monitoring agency contract compliance and performance will provide an advertiser with additional controls to mitigate risk, generate a timely stream of accurate marketing analytics data and boost productivity of the agency network. Check out the article in its entirety at Knowledge@Wharton … Read More