Brand Strategy Brand Partnerships #Technology

Why agencies must live and breathe ‘breakthrough’ thinking for brands


By Jessica Lenehan, MD client leadership, EssenceMediacomX

April 22, 2024 | 6 min read

Sponsored by:

What's this?

Sponsored content is created for and in partnership with an advertiser and produced by the Drum Studios team.

Find out more

EMX’s Jessica Lenehan explores the evolving brand and agency partnerships, and why ‘breakthrough’ thinking is needed to not only deliver campaigns but co-create legacies.

To women high fiving

At the heart of every successful partnership lies trust, transparency, and collaboration

We all know how powerful partnerships can be. Torvill and Dean. Laurel and Hardy. Jobs and Wozniak. The list of iconic pairs is endless.

And in our world of media, marketing and advertising we know this better than anyone. Innovation is the currency of success. And the best innovation comes from creative collaborations.

But the landscape for partnerships is changing. Recent research shows that a fifth of brands are considering replacing agency partners with in-house teams – especially as economic pressure mounts.

The question arises: how can agencies serve as steadfast guides through these turbulent waters?

Understanding the new communications economy

We’re in the midst of the biggest multigenerational shift in history. We saw 10 years of change within 100 days of the pandemic; people of all ages changed their media viewing habits and that is only continuing.

The role of media strategy and planning used to be about maximizing reach. Media was a vehicle for reaching people with advertising, usually by interrupting them. But how people interact with media has changed. Media is not just about reach. It’s about shopping, dating, gaming, socializing, influencing, self-affirmation, interacting, researching.

We’re in the new communications economy. Change is constant and the way marketing and media is planned, bought and sold has to change, too.

As such, getting partnerships right has never been more important.

So if the partnerships between brands, agencies and media owners aren’t set up to collaborate and seek out the opportunities in this new way of being, they’ll be left behind.

Embracing the spirit of innovation

The traditional playbook no longer suffices in a world hungry for radical change. Brands clamour for breakthroughs – those seismic shifts that redefine the status quo. Enter our modern era of reinvention, where agencies shed the shackles of convention to blaze new trails.

What does this look like in practice? It’s about more than just strategy – it’s a mindset shift. Agencies must live and breathe ‘breakthrough’ thinking, championing bold ideas and challenging norms and the areas clients are wanting to explore.

Norms such as not advertising against ‘hard news content’, which we challenged in order to get UN Women the critical awareness and donations it needed following the devastating 2023 Türkiye and Syria earthquakes.

We needed to find a cost efficient and radical new way to break through the clutter and tell our story: surrounding the breaking, and most read, news stories of the day, where other brands were cautious of.

But fortune favours the brave, and through our partnership with The Telegraph and The Guardian, we hit 73% of our High Value Donors over 14 days and the campaign saw a 3,600% uplift in UK donations for UN Women’s Earthquake appeal.

This type of thinking is a commitment to constant evolution. A willingness to experiment, to work with our clients to understand where new opportunities lie for them and a readiness to discard outdated practices that are no longer serving us well.

Breakthrough thinking for our people, too

At EssenceMediacomX (EMX), our heritage is in delivering breakthroughs for our clients through frictionless collaboration across four pillars – data, media, creative and technology.

Prioritizing breakthrough thinking empowers agencies to truly become engines of innovation, driving brands – and also their own organizations – toward uncharted horizons.

Breakthroughs come in all shapes and sizes, focused on improvement and innovation. They can be big innovations, like building a new contextual technology so clients can improve relevance in the cookieless era, or smaller everyday improvements, like changing a meeting format for better creativity.

Breakthroughs are created by mastering new ways of working across three main areas: mindset, skillset and toolset. Mindset means fostering a culture of curiosity and ambition to relentlessly breakthrough. Skillset is about rigorous practice, process, and skill-crafting to have in-depth specialist and generalist experts to strategize breakthroughs. Toolsets must possess the proprietary tools and products that help identify and execute breakthroughs.

Two to tango: fostering transparency and collaboration

In an era of change, some things will always remain the same.

At the heart of every successful partnership lies trust, transparency, and collaboration.

Brands aren't merely looking for vendors – they seek strategic allies invested in their success.

But transparency isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a guiding principle. Agencies must be candid about their capabilities, acknowledging both strengths and areas for growth. Clients appreciate authenticity, knowing that agencies are on a journey of continuous improvement alongside them.

By fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration, agencies forge bonds that transcend mere transactions, laying the foundation for enduring partnerships.

In the end, it’s not just about delivering campaigns, it’s about co-creating legacies. The world is changing. And brands and agencies are embarking together on this journey, as partners in possibility, as architects of transformation. The future beckons. And with the right partner by your side, the possibilities are limitless.

Brand Strategy Brand Partnerships #Technology

Content created with:


GroupM is the world’s leading media investment company with a mission to create a new era of media where advertising works better for people. Responsible for more...

Find out more

More from Brand Strategy

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +