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Opinion: We May Be ‘In this Together’ But We Need Greater Collaboration

Collaboration could provide a viable and profitable way forward for media and creative agencies as well as media owners but there is one stumbling block – egos-  argues Stuart Fogarty.

I live in Dalkey. So I was talking to my neighbour, Matt Damon, over the tomatoes in SuperValu before he headed back to the USA. He said that Hollywood was changing, it’s become more ‘collaborative’ and the super cut-throat business of movies was friendlier than ever.

I made that up.

I haven’t been talking to Matt Damon, I’ve never met him, but I have been talking to media owners. the CEOs of the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Sunday Times, Virgin Media TV, FM104, The Business Post, Business Plus and many, many others.

Now these are people who are normally very competitive. They move to the other side of the street when they see each other and they book separate hotels. Getting them to collaborate was like asking Dominic Cummings to go to the opticians around the corner from his house. Impossible.

But now? They are…and they’re all the better for it.

Al Green singing ‘Let’s stick together’ over endless commercials of people doing funny things in their homes, nauseatingly makes the point – We are all in this together. All facing the same cashflow problems, sales drops, staff cuts, landlord assassinations – but if we collaborate, it helps.

Reach out to each other and talk about how a competitor has got around a problem like yours or by sharing back office tasks. Previously sacrilegiously unheard of. And in the media business they are putting their competitive streaks aside for the minute and getting things done, together. They are good people, business people who don’t dither when their backs are against a wall.

Advertising and media agencies are not and yet they are the most threatened of species – middlemen. They’re going to just plough their own furrow whatever it takes, as they bleed all over the floor. And that’s a mistake, because they could leave a mountain of debt in their wake for others. Never mind, a very long-term staff furlough.

The reason is as old as the hills and a particular feature of advertising leaders. Ego.

They don’t want to talk about their problems for fear of a drop in rumour profile or, share their solutions because, well, they’re theirs. They leave it too late to talk mergers until there’s nothing left to merge. And thanks to industry people like John McGee at IMJ Magazine, they have the zoominar forums, other meeting collaboration opportunities, but they don’t take them.

Their press releases tell a story of ‘Business as normal’, ‘New Business pitches and gains’, ‘Nothing to see here’, whilst we all know it hides a very public truth. Advertising is in the doldrums. And it’s not getting better any day soon.

Collaboration, talking, merging, sharing between former competitors, is their way out. That new sense of community you now see, on the formerly ‘nose-in-the-air’ middle class streets of Dalkey. Now it’s like a country village of hellos, fine day thank God and how are you. We’re in this together. Put differences away and seize opportunities. Advertising agencies and Hollywood.

As my old pal Matt Damon was telling me.

Stuart Fogarty is the founder of the video agency Streamabout and Admatic. He is the former owner of McConnell’s Advertising and a former President/Fellow of IAPI.



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