Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Collaboration or competition?

Up until recently, my experience of 'the competition' was bumping into them in reception, as we were leaving the building, and they were about to go into their pitch slot. I would leave intimidated by the size of the creative director’s cardboard box he was carrying; obviously housing some creative genius that was bound to wow my potential new client. In other words, my attitude to competition was an adversarial one.

Over recent days, with the build up to the launch of The Flexible Marketing Company, and the post recession world of not tolerating unnecessary fixed overhead (a subject for a future blog post) I view the world much more collaboratively.

A few significant things have happened to me to aid and abet this new world view. Firstly there’s Jimmy. Great designer, works for us half the week, and branching out on his own the other half of the week. He often works in our premises the majority of the week. My creative team input to his projects and he to ours. There’s a lot of mutual trust between us and it is a win-win situation. Then there is Paul ( A young freelance designer, the son of long standing friends. I can’t employ Paul, but I can, and have, just passed on to him a client that, after a re-brand, can not afford the studio day rates of a mature agency. So I have hooked them up. (The client is a fantastic client, check out Then there is the fact that we have just sub-let some of our office space to another creative agency! I am not sure I would have done that 2 years ago. Finally, there’s Tim and Pippa at Wixhill ( On the surface, we’re competitors. But we both want significant projects, and we recognise that there are times when we are stronger together, and the sum of our parts enables us to do things we can’t do alone.

But here is the bigger thought. I have another neighbour friend; we watch our sons play hockey at the weekends. He is the European Marketing Director for a global Pharmaceutical company. On chatting about our worlds on a freezing January morning over a Starbucks coffee, he has explained to me that they have two global agencies they use, no small, local, specialist agencies. The reason is they need global reach, and global understanding. Wouldn’t it be exciting if, with the new possibilities of social media (another future blog post), we could make global, collaborative connections that one day might mean I could be bumping into WPP’s creative director in reception, pitching for work previously only won by one of the big global communication boys.

Am I naïve? Probably. Am I idealistic? Maybe. If so, I am much more enjoying the possibilities of this wider world.