DUBAI: A brand’s agency partners should be willing to take risks and have skin in the game, according to Coca-Cola’s head of integrated marketing communications in the Middle East.

Islam ElDessouky, speaking at a breakfast event during Dubai Lynx, promoted the sense of partnership that should exist between an advertiser and its agency.

“It can’t be a master and slave relationship,” he said. “It should be one where you see both success and failure, where the partnerships become stronger on our roster.” (For more read WARC’s report: Agencies need skin in the game, says Coke.)

As an example, he referred to a 2014 campaign – Hello Happiness Phone Booth – that drew the ire of media outlets around the world.

“We thought it was such a good thing to do, we thought we were like Mother Theresa,” he said of the campaign that saw Coca-Cola bottle caps accepted instead of coins in specially adapted phone booths so that migrant workers could call home. But, for different reasons, both media and government had been critical of the brand.

“The agency was also on the line,” ElDessouky added. “It had to bite the bullet and pull out of certain award festivals. That’s true partnership. There has to be understanding and trust. If that doesn’t exist, it’s not going to work.”

More generally, he advised agencies to “have skin in the game”.

“When your client sees you taking risks for them, they believe in you more,” he said. “Coke is a big client to lose; it’s a big deal if your agency gets fired from Coke.”

Articulating what his main lesson was from the phone booth campaign, Islam said: “Trying to be comfortable and safe and win no matter what doesn’t exist, because everything you do will have haters and advocates and you need to be agile about how to build on the conversation.”

Sourced from WARC