Under the Hood of the New Agency Model
Andre Moreira, ECD of The&Partnership's dedicated Toyota division, The Garage, explains how having creatives work side-by-side with clients and data analysts makes for a pleasant and productive change.
Enough has been written about new agency models by much smarter people than myself. Usually about why they’re needed and the benefits provided (or lack of, depending on your point of view).
Yet, very few words have been put to screen about what these new structures and ways of working mean for the people, especially the creatives, who actually experience them; what does your day to day look like when you share office space with clients or desks with data analysts?
"It’s true, dress codes do exist. You might struggle with this or find out that a good pair of chinos and a nice shirt actually suit you much better than baggy jeans and a badly fitting, ironic t-shirt."
I’ve been lucky enough to live (survive?) through exactly that in the past year and thought it’d be worth sharing some of the learnings with anyone curious enough to join me in taking a peek under the hood of a part on-site /part off-site; part creative/part media; part production/part data, hybrid advertising agency (working exclusively with Toyota might have influenced the choice of words in this instance).
There’re the obvious things: speed, focus, cost efficiencies, easier collaboration and communication (too many emails. Still), stronger relationships, a better understanding of the client’s business challenges and a more integrated, modern approach to solving them. But enough self-congratulation, let’s move on to the important stuff…
Above: Andre Moreira, ECD at The Garage, The&Partnership's dedicated creative department for Toyota.
Yes, it’s true, dress codes do exist. In Toyota’s case there’s a lack of appreciation for jeans and trainers in the workplace – even of the expensive kind! You might struggle with this or, as some of us did, find out that a good pair of chinos and a nice shirt (no, it doesn’t have to be light blue) actually suit you much better than baggy jeans and a badly fitting, ironic t-shirt (...and isn’t that a dress code of sorts anyway?)
Jokes aside, and counterintuitively (at least for me), was seeing the impact a creative presence and culture had in a more traditional corporate environment. It’s the positive version of having that kid disrupting class by being a bit more vocal and less afraid to ask the tough questions than his more responsible colleagues. Suddenly everyone else feels freer to do the same resulting, in our case, in an increased appetite for bold creative work – our Drag Queen led launch campaign for the Aygo being exhibit no.1 [below].
On the other hand, finding the space and freedom to have stupid ideas (essential for a creative on the way to having good ones) is harder to come by. A client walking behind and questioning what’s on your screen as you’re writing headlines, or just watching YouTube videos (for inspiration, of course) can be disruptive and even unproductive. We deal with the issue in different ways.
"Nothing new is without its challenges."
There’s the efficient approach applied by our German colleagues who solved the problem by placing a door between their space and the rest of the Toyota office and not sharing the key. Or the polite, British one, with the London Hub (The Garage) situated in its own, separate building in central Soho providing the perfect excuse reason for anyone (client and agency alike) wanting to work in a more informal, collaborative space.
Having this ‘safe port’ makes a huge difference and I’d say is one of the better things about adopting a hybrid on-site/off-site agency structure. Which brings me to another important point. Morale.
"We call ourselves a ‘creative industry’ but not much real change has truly happened within creative departments since I started working (almost 20 years ago)."
We soon realised the extra proximity and the focus derived from having everyone working on the same brand (but for everyone’s sanity, also on very different projects) can be great when things are going well, but extremely hard to manage when that’s not the case. There simply isn’t anywhere to hide, no other clients or projects to help you forget. Plus, as we all work closely together (physically and metaphorically), we all feel the issues, independently of department. Meaning any problems need to be dealt with, and fast! Meaning also, once that’s done, we all tend to come back stronger.
I guess, in the end, what I’m trying to say is that nothing new is without its challenges – we call ourselves a ‘creative industry’ but not much real change has truly happened within creative departments since I started working (almost 20 years ago). So, it’s great to finally be working in a truly different place, in a truly different way, one that we are actually creating every single day. As the great Steve Jobs would say ‘We sat in a garage and invented the future’ – ours is in Gresse St, London. Come visit one day.