‘Inter-agency collaboration? I hate it’, admits boss of full service agency 303MullenLowe

The boss of full service agency 303MullenLowe has told how he “hates” working with other agencies and argued it creates nothing but division and inefficiency.


Nick Cleaver: “I think it leads to a huge amount of time wasted in reinvention and argument and discussion and deviation.”

In comments likely to split opinion, Nick Cleaver told the Mumbrella Finance Marketing Summit that collaborating on campaigns leads to a “huge amount of waste”.

He said the time when media and creative began going their separate ways was a dark day for the advertising industry.

Cleaver’s remarks were immediately rejected by the senior marketer of IAG Commercial Insurance, who said it was perfectly possible for agencies to work harmoniously and effectively.

The power of collaboration was the reason the company won awards for its Tropfest campaign, Julia Nelson told Mumbrella.

Asked about 303MullenLowe’s full service model, Cleaver said: “If you’re going to ask me do I enjoy working with other agencies? I hate it.

“Do I believe it’s the most efficient model? No I don’t. I think it leads to a huge amount of time wasted in reinvention and argument and discussion and deviation.

“I am an enormous advocate of media and creativity being one. One of the worst things that ever happened to this industry was the separation of media thinking from creative thinking.”

Cleaver acknowledged it was a “fact of life” that 303MullenLowe needs to work in tandem with other agencies and recognised that clients have “multiple partners”.

“You have to accept that. But do I like it? No I don’t,” he said.

But Cleaver predicted the days of a fragmented agency landscape will soon come to and end, with “clear signs it is breaking down”.

“Media agencies are becoming increasingly powerful and delving into the creative arts,” he said. “Give it another five years and the division will have gone.”

Julia Nelson:

Julia Nelson: “There’s no tolerance for back biting or undermining”

Nelson, senior manager of brand, sponsorships and events at IAG Commercial Insurance – which picked up the inaugural award for collaboration at this year’s Mumbrella Awards – said working with various agencies on its recent Tropfest campaign led to a “powerful” proposition.

“As a client being able to have those blended ideas coming together is very powerful, rather than a traditional agency over here and a traditional agency over there,” she told Mumbrella.

“You have a chance to pick your partners and test them against your idea and then pick and choose the best combination of how those partners respond.”

Nelson said she spent time building trust and creating an environment that thrived on “open and honest conversations”.

“There’s no tolerance for back biting or undermining,” she said.

“There’s also a personality thing. I don’t like working with egomaniacs. I like people who actually sign on to do the right thing for their client, and are not after their own aggrandisement.

“We will win multiple awards for this (Tropfest) campaign because of the collaboration, because the agencies trust the process.

“They trust the client, and they want to do their best work.”

UBank head of marketing, Jo Kelly, said having a lead agency was an outdated approach to marketing.

Jo Kelly:

Jo Kelly: “I am not going to say it’s always an easy and beautiful process. It’s not”

She told the conference that it briefed its agency partners collectively for its All I Need campaign, with no one agency having a greater say than any other.

“It has created a lot of debate amongst the agencies and it doesn’t mean that all the agencies will go ‘wow that’s amazing’, but they will respect the creative idea and execute to achieve the targets that we are looking for,” she said.

“I am not going to say it’s always an easy and beautiful process. It’s not. It’s tension filled, but that is good because we get really good strong outcomes and we get brave work that is going to resonate with people.”


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