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Can agencies pass the authenticity test?

London-based digital agency

Draw/Create differentiate their offering in terms of digital insight, seamless delivery and transformational step change for the client. The Draw Group also includes Draw/Connect and Draw/Focus.

Kent Valentine is the Managing Director of Draw/Create. He discusses the importance of authenticity and honesty in the agency world.

How using Synergist has helped Draw have honest, authentic and fact-based conversations with clients.

"We've got the tools now to show us what each project really costs and what its status is each day.

"Everybody accesses the same information, so we now encourage team members to be more up-front with clients about what the reality is at all times."

Draw / Create's portfolio

'Fakery, awakery...'

Says Kent: “In our industry there have always been degrees of Authenticity. The better A brand is at faking it, the smarter it is.

"Or, that’s how it used to be. But does that apply Today? I think that faking it is simply not working well any more. I think there’s a craving for honesty now. Brands with little or no basis in truth seem shallow, no matter how clever the treatment."

Customers are getting more and more savvy. So what is authenticity, exactly? a recent issue of Marketing Week lists eight values:

Genuine  |  Original  |  Unique  |  Expert  |  Visionary  |  Passionate  |  Honest  |  Integrity-based.

“Of them all, I expect customers would probably put honesty at the top of the list."

And here's a question: "What about the agencies who are paid to help these brands find their authenticity? Are they themselves particularly authentic?"

"Are brands comfortable working with agencies staffed with agreeable robots? Or would they rather work with straight-talking people peer to peer?"

“At Draw we’re experimenting with attempts to move our agency a step closer to a reality that clients want.

We’ve come up with...

Seven initiatives so far..."

1. Making things better

“This stems from something a teacher once told me:"

‘Kent, if the world isn’t a better place for you doing what you do, then you’ve no right to do it.’

“This was both a revelation and an inspiration — the idea that continual improvement should not only be baked into what we do, but that it’s also our responsibility."

“We have picked this up at Draw because it speaks to both what we do (making things, better than other people do), and our belief in iterative improvement and transformation.”

2. Cutting through the noise

“There’s a buzz in a busy agency. You can feel it, and certainly hear it. But the noise I’m talking about is the noise of working on the wrong things. In this industry you have to get to the essence of what’s needed, fast."

"If you allow the signal-to-noise ratio to become unbalanced, people waste their talents on things that won’t even help the client. So cut through it. Before our new system here we couldn’t see which areas of our business we should most focus on. It’s now crystal clear.”

3. Honest conversations with clients

"We've got the tools now to show us what each project really costs and what its status is each day. Everybody accesses the same information."

"So we now encourage team members to be more up-front to clients about what the reality is at all times. It makes for honest, adult conversations going on right across the client-facing teams every day.”

4. Less wasted time

"We used to spend masses of time searching for information or pulling together reports or estimating work or doing invoices. Such a waste. Now, that’s all cleaned up."

"It leaves more time for client focus. An agency bogged down in internal process-noodling can never be authentic because It’s oriented inwards rather than outwards.”

5. Removing the silos

“We focus on three client sectors here, but each was starting to develop its own way of doing things."

"We needed one Draw way to avoid fragmentation. Getting the new system helped enormously to pull it all together.”

6. Uncovering what you don't know you don't know

"One of our industry’s biggest challenges is that it’s easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions instead of rigorously challenging what we do and don’t know. Understanding that you don’t know something is sometimes more helpful than having something confirmed."

"It keeps you on your toes and helps you mitigate blindspots. Getting Synergist gave us a surprise benefit: it shows us new ways to look at our data, uncovering trends, patterns and opportunities we had no visibility of before.”

7. Continuous improvement, even in small steps

“The concept of marginal gains in elite sport was made famous in the London 2012 Olympics when Team GB cycling won a record 8 gold medals."

"It’s all about making aggregated small gains in many areas to improve overall performance, sometimes with massive results. Our new system makes it easy for us to do precisely this now.”

Four other spinoffs we've noticed so far

Better every day

“Every day we’re automatically creating a valuable record of our jobs, which will benefit future work, for example in estimating. As they say, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So every day we get better at avoiding the same mistakes.”

Prioritised time

“There will always be over-demand for the resources you have. There are millions of ways to spend your time. The trick is to prioritise.”

No more chickens

“You need something to help reconcile your head and your heart. Before Synergist we had a big heart but we would work like headless chickens. Now, the data helps us make better decisions. It also helps us focus on our point of difference.”

New connections

“Synergist is the phenomenon that touches every person in the agency, so it can join everything up, pull people together and demonstrate the value of each team to the rest. It’s a tool that can help rally people to a purpose and help them understand things that seemed impenetrable or irrelevant to them before.”

"What your gut feel tells you isn’t always right. You need a proper system."

"Synergist increases people’s awareness of how everything works."

...and here's a free tip about timesheets

“To get everybody on board regarding timesheets, we introduced a Timesheet Raffle. A spotless Time-sheet week wins a ticket."

"We gave five prizes a month, including mystery prizes such as tickets to art exhibitions, cases of beer, salsa dancing classes or Amazon vouchers. Everybody fills them in now.”

Special mention

“Let me say a good word about the people who did the synergist implementation, the agency works. Particularly for Karen Moss."

"She’s amazing! In fact everything about The implementation, training and support from them was very good.”

...and a summary in under 50 words...

"Authenticity is an inspiration when dealing with clients. Proper data helps you achieve it. And it empowers people, pulls everyone together, ...shows which projects are going to be profitable and which aren’t, encourages adult conversations with clients and helps you focus on the essentials”. 

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