Ramsey Naja: Cross fertilisation is essential to prevent ugly agency inbreeding

Ramsey Naja is CCO at JWT MEA

Lets talk about sex today. After all, that’s what creation is all about, right? In fact, I recall one creative outfit calling itself Boymeetsgirl – it’s true, I swear – so I’m not inventing anything new (regardless of the fact that the agency actually went bust soon after its, erm, conception). Now, as we all know, one of the biggest risks in procreation is associated with inbreeding, a process which, at best, produces Cro-Magnon looks and, at worst, genetic disease.

Nature, it seems, likes diversity and actively encourages the between-the-bedsheets equivalent of immigration, something that’s lost on the European right wing and Trump fans. This, in fact, is where the concept of cross-fertilisation comes from.

In all large companies, cross-fertilisation is not just a good thing: it is essential to produce attractive babies. More to the point, it is the one qualitative factor that actually goes a long way to justify size. The bigger you are as an agency, the more likely your briefs will cover a wide range of categories, so when you’re dealing with a customer retention problem on a telco, you could do worse than team up with someone who’s done airline reward schemes. Creativity often comes from bringing together two unrelated matters for one specific task.

But cross-fertilisation should not be confined to talent exchange programmes and task-specific requirements. There’s nothing more effective at cultivating venomous flora in a young creative mind than dedicating it full-time to one client or, worse, one brand. The need for systematic, role-swapping, diverse brainstorming and general mashups of minds should be something that is ingrained in an agency’s culture, to the extent that it should be actively promoted. This may fly in the face of the common practice of creating deep business units, but it is the lever with which large companies can compete against the small and agile ones.

And it doesn’t stop at this. Cross-fertilisation is not limited to the practice of mixing knowledge and talent across clients and disciplines. Indeed, and as we prepare to celebrate Campaign’s 200th issue in these pages, the range of knowledge that longevity allows a single person to cover can be the individual equivalent of a multi-discipline brainstorming session. One long-termer with ambition is a cross-fertilised small agency by himself. Agencies that are obsessed with the notion of hiring young talent, ditching veterans or failing to hire highly-experienced staff for financial reasons are not just missing out. They are f***ing themselves.

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