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All Together Now

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When people talk about transformation the phrase "Change or Die" is often used as the call to action to drive the imperative. However, the road to transformation described at this year's 4A's Leadership conference is better summed up as "Collaborate or Die."

In fact, the conference itself is the perfect example of that principle in action. In years past the creative and media companies held their own separate conferences. The merging of media, technology, data and creative made that need redundant. The lines are blurring, as are the functions. For the leaders in attendance, the message is clear: agencies and agency partners need to forego their siloed ways or face redundancy themselves.

Larry Light, one of the architects behind McDonald's turnaround nearly six years ago, admonished marketers for the "disintegration of marketing in organizations." He noted that too often marketing has been artificially split into silos and specializations. What silos ultimately end up being is an exercise in people not being held accountable. Not only are people not communicating, they are using the walls put up in their organizations as a way to avoid responsibility. When marketing is reduced to "specialisms," the organization stops competing for the heart and minds of their customers, they end up in futile competition with each other.

Eliminating this type of friction not only helps produce better work, it draws talent. In fact, Nick Brien believes the collaborative organization will win the war for talent. Talent wants to work in environments that are more collaborative. They want to work on high-functioning teams. They want to immerse themselves in new and diverse experiences. And, they want to learn what others on their team do and why.

"It is all converging. If we don't collaborate, we're going to miss it," said Brien.

Nick is soon to be the poster boy for these blurring of roles as he moves from President and CEO of Media brands to the global leader at McCann Erickson. The joke behind Brien's role is that he is now "bi"--straddling both the media and creative sides of the business. A reporter, clearly missing the point, asked Brien whether he would miss being involved in media. Brien told the reporter that media will always be a part of who he is and what he does and suggested the reporter may be better suited for a pig-farming magazine.

Collaborating with each other is just the beginning. Collaborating with consumers will be the true driver of success. Marketers who take the time to understand what the consumer wants and how they can involve them and get them to participate in a creative, authentic way, will succeed. And, today more than ever we have an understanding of what the customer wants. Rishad Tobaccowalla of VivaKi described this fact as the key driver behind an upcoming marketing Renaissance -- going as far as to say that we are about to experience the best 10 years of our industry. The companies that will succeed are the ones that bring in the talent that want to paint, build and sculpt, he said, not the ones that are obsessed with organizing and reorganizing.

It's the companies that foster collaboration that will succeed, companies who bring the outside in, who are concerned less about what they have to lose and more about what they have to gain. And as Rishad so poignantly pointed out, companies that are fearless and not just aiming to be "a little less pathetic than the competition."