THE EIGHT LESSONS OF IN­TE­GRA­TION

Charles Val­lance, VCCP

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE - Charles Val­lance is a found­ing part­ner at VCCP

Let’s start with the ba­sics. You can’t im­pose in­te­gra­tion from the top down; it has to start from the bot­tom up. This is some­thing that has huge im­pli­ca­tions for the com­pa­nies you work for, for the dis­ci­pline you work in, and for your per­sonal ca­reer choices. Don’t look to man­age­ment – by def­i­ni­tion, they don’t know what they are do­ing. And, in par­tic­u­lar, don’t look to the man­age­ment of man­age­ment – they are in­her­ently even more clue­less. Any­one re­mem­ber Publi­com? Why do I say this? Why am I anti-man­age­ment? Be­cause, if you’re not do­ing some­thing th­ese days, you’re get­ting in the way. All the suc­cess sto­ries I know of in­volve small, mo­ti­vated groups of peo­ple who have been al­lowed to get on with the things they do well, who have been de­lib­er­ately un­der-man­aged.

So, here are my eight lessons of in­te­gra­tion.

1. In the new in­te­grated re­al­ity, au­thor­ity is earned by what you do, not what you man­age

To­mor­row’s lead­ers will have a hands-on role at the heart of the team. Like direc­tors or pro­duc­ers, they will be mo­ti­vated to keep out of man­age­ment, not clam­ber into it.

2. Don’t think struc­ture, think cul­ture

In­te­grated work­ing won’t hap­pen un­less the en­vi­ron­ment is con­ducive to it. This de­mands the bru­tal crush­ing of snob­bery and petty van­i­ties. Does the de­signer see him­self as su­pe­rior to the art di­rec­tor? Does the art di­rec­tor see her­self as more im­por­tant than the CRM guy? Does the dig­i­tal team rate the ac­count team? If the an­swer is no, you will al­ways face an up­hill bat­tle. That’s why, at VCCP, we started with a set of ten found­ing prin­ci­ples – which all re­late to the cul­ture and de­meanour of the agency.

3. Hire tal­ented peo­ple who are will­ing to muck in

Be­cause of their scarcity, tal­ented peo­ple have less rea­son to be co-oper­a­tive than un­tal­ented peo­ple. There­fore, col­lab­o­ra­tion only works if the tal­ent wants it to. We have to be hon­est – in­te­gra­tion isn’t nec­es­sar­ily to the short-term ad­van­tage of an in­di­vid­ual cre­ative. The old- school prima donna strug­gles with this, as does the newer va­ri­ety.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion means shared re­spon­si­bil­ity, cocre­ation and zoo ad­ver­tis­ing – this can drive some peo­ple mad. If so, don’t pre­tend you can col­lab­o­rate.

4. The client is a part­ner

There’s no two ways about it: if you want to de­liver in­te­grated work­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion, you have to have the client in at the rock face. There can be no arm’s-length re­la­tion­ship. This was true ten years ago, even be­fore brands be­came pub­lish­ers and started to own most of their me­dia. It is now in­escapable.

5. You can’t col­lab­o­rate if you don’t know who you’re talk­ing to

Th­ese days, know­ing who you’re talk­ing to is more im­por­tant than know­ing what you’re talk­ing about. But how of­ten do we sit in mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary meet­ings and fail to in­tro­duce our­selves, fail to be on first­name terms, fail to re­ally know each other? No-one is per­fect, but you can be bet­ter or worse at this. One thing we do at VCCP is have an on­line game called “Who Dat?”, where ran­dom pho­tos of agency staff ap­pear and you are given a choice of three names – after ten pho­tos, you are given your score.

6. Fo­cus on ideas, not cam­paigns

I know this is a bit of a cliché, but it’s get­ting truer and truer. Although we all say we’re idea-driven, we can still be guilty of fall­ing back to­wards the for­mats, plat­forms and ve­hi­cles that are most fa­mil­iar to us. We can quickly make me­dia as­sump­tions and miss out on op­por­tu­ni­ties. Again, it’s quite clichéd but, at VCCP, we find that we in­creas­ingly use idea boards to present work, long be­fore we get to any spe­cific for­mat; this tends to mean we can be more me­dia-neu­tral.

7. De­fine the idea in a short sen­tence (or less)

In a world where ev­ery­thing has be­come more frag­mented and more dif­fused, strate­gies have to be ever-more sin­gu­lar and de­fined. An idea has no chance of co­he­sion if it is vague at the start and can’t be con­densed into a sim­ple, short sen­tence – or, even bet­ter, a word or two.

8. In­te­gra­tion is per­sonal To deal with all the com­plex­ity above and re­duce it to simplicity, you have to be com­fort­able with am­bi­gu­ity and open to change. You need to be will­ing to learn new skills, be open to new ideas and knock down de­fences rather than build them up. Many of th­ese things can fight against our in­hi­bi­tions, but there is a sil­ver lin­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Maslow, the hap­pi­est, most self- ac­tu­alised peo­ple are those who are most open to change and who are most ca­pa­ble of mak­ing new con­nec­tions. In­te­gra­tion, it seems, is good for you.

Val­lance…‘In­te­gra­tion isn’t nec­es­sar­ily to the short-term ad­van­tage of an in­di­vid­ual cre­ative’

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