News & Views

Opinion / Why being Contagious starts with being collaborative

by Janaina Borges
Janaina Borges, president and director of content, Contagious Brazil, shares why building great teams shouldn’t necessarily start in the office



Here at Contagious we work consistently with the most-forward thinking companies around the world.  We have spent the last decade analysing the most important developments driving marketing, technology and business creativity, and documenting the most innovative and creative activity from brands around the world. From this knowledge, Contagious Insider – our consultancy – has identified four key behaviours that characterise the most creatively successful, or ‘contagious’, companies: embracing change, prioritising purpose, disrupting process and executing bravely.

We use these behaviours when helping agencies and brands to work more efficiently and generate braver, more creative work.

For Contagious, disrupting process is about companies that are willing to challenge traditional ways of thinking and working, in order to reach better ideas, faster. Companies that are willing to change their processes, to review the way they’ve always worked, to choose new partners and to welcome different outcomes.

A great share of outstanding work that I’ve seen being created here in Brazil, happened because both clients and agencies could open up their ways of working.

One of the most important changes that we’ve been bringing to our brand clients is for them to be part of the creative process. The knowledge and experience that clients have about their industry and their company are fundamental in order to bring excellence and efficiency to any creative work.

In one of the processes we’ve worked on, with both the agency and client in the same room, I’ve heard the client say to the creative director: ‘If you had brought this idea to me, I never would have approved it. But now I’m one of the creators of it. And I understand it in a much deeper way.’ YES! No client vs agency. Both of them on the same side, with the same understanding and working towards the same objective.

But of one the most meaningful examples of disrupting process that I was part of, took place on the agency side. We were invited to work with an agency on a pitch for one of the biggest brands in Brazil. The pitch process wasn’t traditional, it required the agency and client to work together on a brief for one day. The agency invited Contagious and other partners to be part of this day.

When the client came into the room, the CEO and founder of the agency said: ‘There will be ten people working with us here today. But only four work at my agency.’ The client was obviously surprised and then the founder explained what I deeply believe to be true: no agency will ever have all the best talent, all the skills needed, all the answers. It’s just not possible. Or feasible.

I say that for two reasons:

  • Our industry becomes more and more complex each day and for each project you might need super-specific talents. In our recent projects we’ve worked with architects, nutritionists, athletes, dentists, mathematicians, farmers… the list goes on. A project might also need a planner with a specific background, or a creative that knows everything about a specific industry. The kinds of talent you need might vary depending on the project and there is no reason why an agency should have all these skills internally.
  • The culture of work has changed a lot and will keep on changing rapidly. Super talented people don’t necessarily want to work at agencies any more. They want more freedom, to work with different people, to do different things at the same time, to put energy into their personal projects and just don’t want to conform to limiting structures. So it might be hard to hire these talents and even harder to keep them. But why can’t they be freelance and contribute when their skills will make a bigger impact?

That’s why I couldn’t agree more with the CEO of that agency.

You can’t have a perfect team, ready to go, for every new client that comes in. But you can build one.

It takes a lot of effort and discipline to build and sustain new ways of working. But it pays off.

How do I know? We’ve won that pitch.