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What O2 loves and loathes about working with agencies

O2's Helen Miall

For an agency, working with O2 is not a walk in the park so what does it take to make the relationship work?

With both B2B and consumer facing divisions, O2 is a multifaceted brand so structured in such a way that all agencies in its roster than happen to be working on a project – no matter how small – must report in to the ‘master agency’, Lambie Nairn. This “matrix of agencies” have to attend weekly brand clinics and this extra layer of sign off, the brand admits, can be challenging.

But that doesn’t stop agencies queuing up for a slice of its business. So what can they do to curry favour? The Drum caught up with recently named head of marketing for O2 Commerce and Weve, Helen Miall – who will be speaking at The Drum’s Brief Encounters event this week (20 October) – to find out her tips for working with the brand.

Interrogate me

"When agencies first start thinking about ideas that they can pitch around they need to be asking the right questions," said Miall. "If they have interrogated me then the result tends to be much more accurate and in line with the vision for what I want. [Asking the right questions] can bring out the things I might not necessarily have thought were important at first.”

Respond to my emails

“When I pitch stuff I go to a couple of agencies within the roster and I have to move quite quickly. So if someone takes a week just to acknowledge my email then it puts them out of the running. If they’re not responsive to my initial email then I feel that it gives a good indication they won’t prioritise [my work],” she continued.

Build a good relationship.

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to working with O2.

“I want to manage my expectations. So I’d rather hear a yes or no than a level of ambiguity when it comes to things like dates. It also helps manages expectations internally,” said Miall.

But that also means having a good relationship with fellow agencies. Based on her previous experience at brands other than O2, Miall vented frustrations at barriers in place between creative and media agencies, which result in information not being shared freely.

“In my previous roles, I‘ve felt like it has been up to me as a client to push for that because the agency wasn’t proactive in seeking that collaboration.”

Miall will be speaking alongside marketers from Coca-Cola and Microsoft on a panel titled 'What do brands really want' at The Drum's Brief Encounters event on 20 October. For more information on Brief Encounters and to buy tickets visit the website.

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