The Connection Model

[September 4, 2009]

When workflow mounts up, it’s easy for a “get it done” mentality to creep into every corner of an agency. The focus then shifts from meeting the client’s business goals to manufacturing the object the client requested.

But whether a client wants a banner, a Web site or the next installment in the Widget- of-the-Month Club, an agency must be more than a manufacturing plant. That is, if it actually aspires to serve a client’s business interests.

That’s because an agency’s only true products are the connections it makes with consumers.

The way I see it, the only reason clients pay agencies gobs of money is to acquire and retain a viable customer base. Despite appearances, they’re not actually paying for Web sites, or any other “thing” itself. They’re paying for a consumer engagement strategy, a motivating messaging platform and a compelling creative idea—of which the “thing” is simply one external expression.

Realizing that is the difference between “getting it done” and “getting it right.”

So instead of a Manufacturing Model, agencies need to adopt a Connection Model, a move that impacts every aspect of workflow. Once you focus on connection, for example, you’ll schedule transparently, making it clear that every creative round and client comment will be carefully weighed in terms of its ability to connect with consumers.

Of course, if the centerpiece of your new business strategy is “We’ll do it for Less,” the Connection Model is not for you.

When it comes to creative development and execution, the Connection Model weeds out everything mechanical, picked up or “tried-and-true.” If it holds no value for consumers, out it goes. That’s only to the good: There’s nothing more depressing than the sight of talented creatives mindlessly copying someone else’s work.

In fact, this buzzard-like appropriation of “best practices” is one of the main reasons many clients may question the value of agency work. Why exactly should they pay agency fees, when a team of freelancers can cut and paste as well as anyone can? We’re not the only ones who can Google-up pre-fab CSS templates, freeware JavaScript buttons and royalty free stock art.

Today, clients can even pick up freeware social networking platforms and get all the “hot content” they could ever need. So if we validate the idea that their goal is simply to build a “thing,” why should clients believe they need expensive Strategy, Account and Creative expertise?

Unless we lead by example, and constantly define why “getting it right” actually matters, we have precious little to support our continued existence as a profession. In this sense, adopting the Connection Model is not only essential to the survival of an individual agency, it’s also crucial to the survival of the industry.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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