One of my favorite sayings is an old quip attributed to both Mark Twain and Harry Truman that posits “it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” Despite being a bit egalitarian for a business as competitive as advertising and marketing, there is an eloquent, hopeful wisdom to that thought. Up until the 1960s, advertising agencies were very much siloed into departments. Even within departments, the division of labor was strictly defined and carried out by admen (and a few women) who were fiercely protective of what they did and the role they played. Art directors and writers were often separated by floors, or even buildings. It wasn’t until Bill Bernbach ushered in a new era of collaboration putting creatives together that agencies really started to understand that 1 + 1 = 3.
Flash forward 60 years and once again the concept of collaboration is a topic of interest. Only this time, it’s not about collaboration within a single agency, but rather, collaboration between agency partners. In advertising past, agencies of record were agencies of record. If you had an account, you had the whole account. The strategy, the creative, the media – all of it. But in the past few decades, that has changed dramatically. Today, depending on the size of the account, a brand may have five different agencies handling five different areas of expertise. One agency handles strategy and creative while media firms handle media planning and buying. Promotional agencies do the promotions. Digital shops handle online and social. We are all fiercely competitive. But, as professionals, we get along fine for the most part.