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Marketers need permission to fail

News, 26 February 2016

LONDON: Marketers need permission to fail and agencies need to be more agile, a leading industry figure has said.

The comments were made by Debbie Morrison, director of consultancy and best practice at ISBA, the body representing British advertisers, in the latest episode of the Small Beers, Big Ideas series created by content agency The Moment.

Marketers should have "permission to fail", she said. "What that means is they've more freedom to experiment."

Morrison quoted a description of apps as "the crack cocaine of this brand generation" and observed that as these generally required a lower level of authority there was more scope to develop a range of options.

One drinks business, she recalled, had been awash: "the vast majority of their apps were non-functional, just didn't do anything, but occasionally there would be something that was really, really going to drive a big change in the way they operated and what they could deliver".

But that had only been discovered because those involved had been allowed to play around with a number of possibilities.

Morrison also had some strong words for creative agencies. When ISBA asked its members at the end of last year to rate their creative agencies' performance, "we just got back a load of vitriol", she revealed.

"They weren't agile enough, they weren't in the right shape for the environment they need to market in, [they were] too expensive, and agility was a really big thing."

Long gone are the days when an agency could take 12 months over creating a campaign. "We might be looking at eight weeks," she said. "Or eight days. But they're not set up to do that."

She cited the example of Barclays, which might run fewer campaigns across the year than before but "they're almost always on internally so that requires quite a different shape as to how you manage things".

Clients didn't escape criticism either. Many have tended to simply "bolt on" extra agencies in response to the growth of new channels and technologies.


"Now they're busy managing all of those agencies and to some degree they've taken their eye off the ball," Morrison said.

Data sourced from The Moment; additional content by Warc staff