How to transform your network into a community of co-workers, colleagues and collaborators.


Agencies are driven by deadlines. And like any deadline-driven industry the workflow can be a deluge or a dry creek. There are weeks when you are overwhelmed by the tsunami of work. Other weeks there is just the howl of the wind as it blows tumbleweed through the office. Solving the problem of an unpredictable workload is one of the challenges facing agencies and we at Cohaesus are not alone in finding new solutions in our feast-or-famine, volatile digital environment.

Giffgaff showed the results of its new marketing strategy last week with an advertising campaign that reflects their core message: they are a community with a membership rather than a business with clients. Clever stuff in this age of shrinking consumer trust. This is their response to changing attitudes in the aftermath of the banking crash and in the wake of hacking, ministerial expenses and football corruption scandals that have left the buying public more disenchanted than at any time in the modern era and the communications market mercurial.


GiffGaff new approach to campaigns is based on partnership and open communications

giffgaff new approach to advertising is based on partnership and open communications

Giffgaff’s brand director, Tom Rainsford, decided to rewrite the rule book on business relationships from the top down by including its customers in the process of designing its products and services. Then he turned his attention to marketing. He sees the traditional client/agency relationship as locking the client out of the decision-making process during critical phases of campaign strategy.

“I really hate that word ‘client’, as if we are on one side of the table and the agency is on the other. It’s not a case of we have problems and agencies have answers. We are responsible for what happens to our brand. It’s not about passing something on, but inviting people in” said Rainsford in a recent interview with Campaign.

Rainsford took a risk and it seems to be working. Giffgaff is no longer a client of the big agencies: they have a core team and bring in specialists on an informal basis to create a flexible workforce responsive to the market. Service users have been transformed from customers to collaborators; club members who drive strategy and feel vested in the outcomes, rooting for the product from the word go. Everyone speaks a common language and it is the language of the members themselves.


It is not just the client, in this case Giffgaff, who can feel excluded from various aspects of the marketing operation.
Rainsford is not alone in discovering that the headlong pace of the digital advance has meant that increasing specialisation and niche technical expertise often excludes the very people who should be engaged from beginning to end of the process. Creative agencies face the same issues when trying to operate a flexible workforce to address famine-feast workflow conditions.

There is no shortage of great ideas out there but we don’t think that any solution should come down to two choices: losing control of the process versus trying to find the right resources to deliver your digital products in a pick-n-mix fashion. If you believe, like Rainsford at Giffgaff and as we at Cohaesus do, that there is a third way: one of collaboration, flexibility and above all a partnership within which everyone speaks a common language, come and share your thoughts with us.
Rewriting the rule book and finding practical solutions is something that we applaud. The old one-size-fits-all and we-know-best model of client/agency relations is as passe as brutalist architecture.

Creative leaders and their digital partners will all be watching the progress of Giffgaff with interest as Three merges with O2.