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From Rom-Com To Budget Slasher Movie: When Inter-Agency Meetings Turn Ugly


FinchFactor's Kerrie Finch on how to survive the ultimate agency horror scenario

From Rom-Com To Budget Slasher Movie: When Inter-Agency Meetings Turn Ugly

Anyone who’s worked collaboratively with a client as ringleader will have a blood-bath horror story or two in their memory recesses about when a good all-agency meeting turned ugly.  After all, meetings that are usually billed by the client as a collaborative, interdisciplinary hug-athon are often anything but. Halloween comes just once a year - but for many, these ghoulish gladiatorial rituals occur on a - heaven forbid - weekly basis. These can be reminiscent of a scene from the last unpublished Hunger Games novel. It’s every agency for itself, with many an agency rep left quietly rocking with their heart savaged, their budget slashed at the jugular and their sense of self coldly bludgeoned by the very collaborators who happily took their offering of a Krispy Kreme just moments before.  Make no mistake – it’s survival of the fittest. 

Know Your Opponent – Well, their discipline at least

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s the single most important tactic of them all.  We’re not just saying know their name. Know their teams, their other clients, their objectives but most of all, know their weakness: a lack of knowledge of your discipline. Any PR who’s been told by an ad agency that they’ve come up with ‘a great PR idea’ will have sussed this one already. Often as not, it just isn’t. For the other disciplines out there – swot up and keep mum.  There will come a time when an agency ‘partner’ is out of their depth having waded into your seemingly shark-infested waters. It’s then, like a phoenix from the ashes of ideas long-burnt, that a true master of inter-agency collaboration will strike by offering to lend a hand.  It’s not the time to turn Kruger-like and leave your opponent shredded for dead; it’s time to rise above the internal politics and drive the project forward – for the good of the client. 

Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

Like it or not, there are rules of engagement to deal with and those who plan for them will survive the onslaught.  Basically? Have all the documents you need, enough for everyone around the table (not just the client) and make sure you know how to put your slides onto the screen yourself, especially when the other team responsible for collation has managed to screw it all up. This single piece of technical know-how can make you immediately invaluable to the inner workings of the inter-agency collaborative process – and thus, to the client by proxy. 

Take Provisions and Plan Your Escape Strategy

Food in an all-agency briefing is often like prior warning of a VAT inspection – non-existent. Provisions not only keep you alive and able to fend off the circling budget vultures who can sniff out an unused PO from the next postcode; they’ll also make you some strategic allies who can really get you out of trouble on occasion.  This is the time when a true collaborator shines for the time-poor client who, since the dawn of the ‘digital revolution,’ seems to have had their smartphone surgically attached to their hand in some bizarre, living taxidermy experiment. If you see the hyacinth hue of hunger sweep across the face of the person opposite, it’s already too late. Either batten-down the hatches and prepare for choppy times ahead as the smooth sailing of the good ship Collaborate is about to get bumpy; or leave.

Tales of the macabre aside, these oh-so-simple survival tactics hold firm.  When used appropriately - and only when there’s no appeasement route left - they can save not only your budget and your inter-agency reputation, they might also save you from the dreaded agency chop too. 

Image By Esparta [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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futurefactor, Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:03:13 GMT