I once had an opportunity to assist an advertising agency whose largest account was being threatened by another, a more diversified, more distributed competitor, a mixed martial arts contender with many wins under its belt. For the incumbent, this multinational account was treasured for many reasons beyond financial ones and losing it was not an option. The president of the agency reviewed their situation with me. In his view they were in a losing position - a crisis moment. 

Without going into the nuances of the project, I was confident from the onset that we could produce materials that would be unique, innovative, strategic, impactful, competitive and all of the rest. There were important cross-cultural considerations and tactical ideas required to integrate into new markets. As I stood complacent and satisfied in front of our developing presentation I had a vivid image of the smiling president of the rival agency sitting with the client pouring a second bottle of Chateau Margaux as they endearingly exchanged their promises and requests - a chilling awakening.

The epiphany slowly emerged as my pacing quickened, create opportunities that exceed the predictable advertising practice, in short, do what advertising agencies don't do. Advertising agencies are capable of creating, managing, selling, marketing, etc. and these are all capacities within the boundary of the marketing and communications model of course. They are renowned for their creativity within 'the box' across a variety of dimensions. However, would an advertising agency identify strategic marketing partners that would add value for the customer? Possibly. Would they propose cross-marketing ideas to these potential allies with a shared cost arrangement? Perhaps. Would they approach the head of each partner organization to propose a strategic opportunity and retrieve their willingness to collaborate? Rarely. I was confident that these efforts would tip the scale and improve our chances - a game changer.

My business card smelled of fresh ink at the presentation. As is customary, research insights are followed by strategic communications and then an ad campaign is revealed and embellished. This is usually the crux of the engagement, the moment when the agency people look to the client people seeking a hint of acknowledgment or disappointment; instead the second half of our presentation began with, 'added value + regional partnerships = increased ROI' and ended with one of the five willing collaborators, a familiar CEO, cordially expressing his desire to participate on video. - a crisis averted.

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Tags: Canada, change, disrupt, model

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