Blog: What does it really mean to be a partner?

Reflecting on the recent C2 conference in Montreal, Initiative's Emily Douglas reflects on the cynicism – and the hope – spawned from the event.

Emily Douglas HeadshotEmily Douglas is VP, Partnerships at Initiative, an IPG Mediabrands’ media agency

After taking a few years of hiatus from attending C2 Montreal, a three-day business event that intersects commerce and creativity, I was eager to attend the 2019 edition. Self-proclaimed as the combination of “progressive and inspiring content in a highly creative, festival-like setting that will blow your mind,” the promise is that attendees will leave armed with actionable new ideas.

I can attest to the fact that we as an industry often attend these conferences with the highest jaded hopes known to humankind. We go in carrying a collective longing to discover insight that will lead to more meaningful discussions between agencies, brands and advertising partners. More often than not, rather than leave with a renewed energy to tackle our most pressing business challenges, we are met with our unwavering stance: that the industry is broken.

Without a doubt, one of C2′s most powerful skills is its ability to draw you closer to multiple industries through compelling experiences. But in the context of my own day-to-day and under the lens of partnerships, here were my takeaways:

  • What is the future of business? People.

  • What do agencies bring to their clients? The capacity to fetch talent that clients can’t access.

  • How have agencies remained relevant? Through the ability to assemble the right team based on each person’s individual superpowers.

Driving innovation (albeit a noble and exciting pursuit) may not always be possible, but tapping into the true value that agencies can bring to brands is made possible by their ability to attract and engage the right people.

Was this theme groundbreaking? No. Did it resonate with me? Yes. Because following a long legacy of blind trust that clients have placed in agencies, the past decade has revealed an erosion of that very trust; one that works against everything we are trying to create through these partnerships.

What’s left in many cases is an uncomfortable tension brewing between both parties.

How are we, as agencies, brands, and advertising partners, supposed to produce our best collective work amidst this palpable tension? Better yet, what does it even mean to be a partner?

In business, it means a person who takes part in an undertaking with others through shared risks and gains. That’s all fine and dandy when you are winning awards and clinking your newly acquired hardware over champagne. But when the going gets tough, are we still enthusiastically supporting one another? Are we committed to collectively understanding how we can learn from our experiences, to do better, knowing that our failures are the greatest weapon we have for future success?

In the end, for me C2 reaffirmed what deep down we all knew already: people are the secret sauce. Was my mind blown? No. But I left more invigorated from a conference than I have in a long time.

Have an opinion on media, ad spend, partnerships and more? MiC and CARD want your voice to be heard. Email Bree Rody-Mantha to make your pitch.