user Posted By PAS
time October 28 2015
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Briefing for integrated communication isn’t easy but WFA members are working to improve. Rob Dreblow explains

Most of us who have worked agency-side learnt from an early stage that “the client is always right”. No matter what.

Not necessarily. Working for the WFA offers a unique vantage point and we often see that most clients are comfortable in admitting to their own shortcomings.

One area where humility is especially rife is agency briefing. I’m not talking about the “good old days” of briefing a single creative agency for a 30” TVC. I mean briefing a complicated portfolio of agencies to collaborate and deliver integrated marketing solutions across multiple touch points, in many markets.

Our members’ desire to crack this multinational integration challenge is the key reason we set up our IMCFORUM.

At recent meetings in London (see video below) and Singapore we focused on the ‘art’ of briefing and heard how a range of different brands are trying to develop their own solutions.

We also shared results from an anonymous global survey of WFA member companies, created in partnership with Flock Associates.

The results – based on responses from 27 companies spending an approximate combined total of $14bn each year – show that whilst most brands are doing many of the right things, they also know they need to improve.

Some recurring themes emerged from both the survey and our discussions. These included:

1. Brief in person

One agency in South-East Asia shared a horror-story with us of being brief via SMS. Whilst that’s an extreme example, the point is that the manner of the briefing is often as important as the detail. Nothing beats the personal touch.

Impressively, given their global/regional scope, more than 85% of our respondents do brief in person, with 74% now briefing all departments and agencies at the same time.

2. Co-create the brief

Respondents were also making efforts to create a sense of co-ownership around the brief, often involving agencies and local partners in the brief development.

Many feel the most effective approach is to create a small hand-picked team (maybe five to six people) from a range of different functions to ensure what is developed is both clear and truly integrated.

3. Comms plan first

A common mistake is to start the process by developing creative and content and then try and develop the programme or campaign based on those assets. This has huge potential for wastage if only five of the 100 pieces of content created are actually used.

Our discussions highlighted that a more effective approach would be to start with a ‘touchpoint blueprint’ or customer journey. Whilst 81% of respondents claimed to include a single view of the consumer in their brief, almost half (48%) did not include a clear customer journey. This appears to be an area many companies need support with and will be addressed on future IMCFORUM agendas.

4. People

With so many external partners employed by brands, successful IMC requires investment in client-side colleagues who are process-minded and capable of orchestrating a complex roster of agencies. This in-house skill-set can often be overlooked in the rush to find the most creative talent.

A focus on process and management may not keep creative individuals motivated. So consider engaging with your HR colleagues and brief them on these capabilities who may be less obvious targets for the marketing team.

5. Timing

A further critical element to the process is timing. One of our IMCFORUM members suggested that big programmes require up to 54 weeks advance notice to get everything into place.

The reality for many, however – particularly when briefing is in response to competitor activity – is that it can be much shorter than that. Eight out 10 respondents said they typically briefed more than two months ahead of launch but all acknowledged that timing is a common challenge, particularly in more competitive and fast moving sectors.

The good news is that 96% of respondents to our survey said that adopting an integrated briefing process had made campaigns more effective and 85% agree that integration had delivered better alignment across departments, including those outside marketing.

Most marketers looking to improve the way the way they deliver integrated marketing solutions could benefit from taking a good hard look at their own briefing process. You may feel that you have a way to go, but don’t be ashamed, you are not alone.

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