Brain-Bridging at Its Best

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The right-brain, left-brain gap between clients and agencies -- and within each -- is natural to an industry that demands both creativity and business results. Here's how to bridge it:

Adjust to the leftward shift
Heed the reality that, relatively speaking, pure creativity today is less valued across the business. "Left-brained marketing skills such as quantitative analysis are more prized than ever before," says Peter Kim, senior analyst for Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass. "What's critical for success today is to have a clear balance of both."

Yet don't lose sight of the often-decisive importance of creativity. "There's both an art and a science to marketing," says Howard Schacter, chief partnership officer of Steve & Barry's, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based sports-apparel retailer. "If you're going to be successful on the agency side, be prepared to deliver either."

Know your players -- including yourself
Be honest about the resources, capabilities and personalities that line up on your side. Supplement as necessary with foot soldiers who have the appropriate brain orientation. And over the longer term, hire people who – though grounded in right- or left-brain thinking -- demonstrate some grasp of the other side.

CMOs should include themselves in their assessment
"CEOs now are looking for CMOs who show not only innovation and creativity but also people who can actually manage a business, who are going to be a real general manager -- not just create pretty pictures and nice ads," Mr. Kim says.

Set the right expectations
Personal involvement by CEOs and CMOs in gap-closing efforts such as sitting in on familiarization sessions between their marketing staffs and client personnel establishes a clear message about the importance of the pursuit and often benefits the chief as much as the troops.

And build balance where it's lacking, especially by exposing right-brainers to hard-boiled business thinking. "Too often, agencies protect the creative from the business responsibilities that the advertising will carry," says Lucas Donat, partner at Donat Wald in Santa Monica, Calif. "It can be exciting to them to see how their advertising is moving that needle -- or not."

Shrink the playing field
Establish sound business criteria such as sales or awareness increases for measuring the success of marketing efforts, not settling just for vague agreement on the impact of an ad. Set up clear boundaries within which creative is expected to stay -- and succeed. "Ultimately, that's what frees the creative," Mr. Donat says. "If we hit those numbers, we'll know the advertising is successful -- and we're given wings to fly on the creative."

Design bridges
Work deliberately to eliminate the left-brain, right-brain gap or prevent it from developing in the first place. Various bridging exercises and structures are one way to do this.

Nesting all your work with one agency is another
"You can get to the point of common thinking much quicker," says Don Dumoulin, who until recently was CMO for Roche Diagnostics in Indianapolis, whose consumer brand is Accu-Chek glucose testing. "It's operationally better, it costs less, and you lift the brand at a faster rate."

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