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Creative tensions unite partners

News, 10 January 2014

NEW YORK: In-house and external ad agencies are increasingly trying to determine how best to work together, and stand to gain valuable lessons from following the example of Prudential Advertising and Droga5.

After Prudential – the financial services group – decided it needed to ramp up its number of brand campaigns, the firm named Droga5 as a partner for its internal agency in this area. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: Mixing in-house and external agencies: How Prudential Advertising works with Droga5.)

Colin McConnell, vp/head of advertising at Prudential Financial, reported that the prospect of "insurance guys" and "hip guys" at an agency joining forces may not sound promising, but has in fact been a great success.

"One of the things that makes it work is the concept of creative tension. If you have two groups that are exactly the same, what's the point? So there is a little bit of a healthy conflict dynamic in it that we think is cool," he told delegates at the 2013 In-House Agency Forum.

The output they have produced to date includes an online hub called The Challenge Lab, which contains a vast array of content discussing how human psychology and behaviour hinder good financial planning.

By reframing the debate about this subject, the two companies have engaged with consumers in a new way on a topic that is far from top of mind for many people.

Initiatives of this kind have been central to securing the increased level of trust and confidence that is now observable across Prudential's various business units and senior management.

"Basically, just through competence and excellence of execution, we've won a tremendous amount of credibility and respect for what we're doing," said McConnell.

Prudential Advertising and Droga5 often work on separate projects, but McConnell suggested the opportunities they get to pool inspiration, insight and knowledge have proved particularly fruitful.

"I think that the best work … really comes out of us being merged together," he said. "The coolest stuff from the work that we've done so far: they wouldn't have gotten there on their own; there's no question about that. And we would not have gotten there either without them."

In addressing the factors that have prompted this result, one vital decision was to make sure that Droga5 did not feel like it was simply involved in a "vendor" relationship.

Equally important was ensuring that the members of Prudential's in-house team did not become concerned about their status following the appointment of an external shop.

"I don't think of them as two agencies: I just see them as the New York office and the Newark office," said McConnell.

Data sourced from Warc