Mars CMO: marketers need to release agencies from creative imprisonment

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 28 October 2015

Fear of dismissal, poor payment terms and too many layers of wardens undermine agencies' ability to produce great brand work for their clients. To get the best work out of creative and media agencies, marketers need to release their partners "from creative imprisonment," according to Bruce McColl, Mars global CMO.

Speaking today at the AANA Reset conference in Sydney, McColl, who has been global CMO of Mars for a decade, said the only way that brands can create great work is to create conditions that help both marketers internally, and agency partners, to flourish.

He advised the marketers and agencies in the room to look at their agency relationships and how they operate.

"Are we creating conditions where they are prisoners or are we creating conditions where they can perform at their ultimate ability and we can have mutual success?" he asked.

"We have to free our agency relationships from creative imprisonment."

The analogy goes that if clients are forcing subsistence rations that stop agencies making a profit, mandatory rules on how to create ads, too many prison wardens leading to decisions by committee, and the threat of death row or being dismissed, then nothing good can come of it.

"We have to pay them enough to make a good profit. We want our agency partners to make a good profit - if they don't, they can't recruit the best people to work on our business," he said.

"We want to create four-star advertising and it's worth paying our agent partners enough. The guiding principle is for them to have predictability of revenue, to make sure they are fed and can reward the best talent."

Mandatory rules on what elements must appear in brand communications, he said, create mediocre ads, adding that globally, Mars is trying to "break rules and unleash creativity".

He showed an example of an ad from a few years ago for its Wrigley's Extra gum that was created using a strict formula, including pack shots and product messages, that followed 'the rues' but didn't work, because it wasn't creative.

He then followed up with the latest ad for the brand, that since launching two weeks ago has had more than 100 million shares, because it breaks the rules and taps into emotion.

McColl also lamented the threat of dismissal that often hangs over agency partners and holds back good creative. Within Mars, he introduced a global roster so that Mars works with BBDO, DDB and MediaCom globally, and that no local agency partner can be reviewed or sacked without the CMO and CEO being involved.

"I can't understand how anyone expects to get good work from partners if they are under constant threat of dismissal. We don't want a culture of fear and dismissal from our agencies," he said.

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