“Trust is a hard thing to foster in any relationship, let alone a client-agency relationship.” Charlotte Farrington is Head of Account Management at Karmarama, part of Accenture Interactive, and has led the creative execution of The Army’s recruitment campaigns for over three years. And what a great three years it’s been, with eye-catching results and awards aplenty.
But such a profitable partnership might not be obvious, given Karmarama’s initial approach. At the start of the relationship Karmarama presented an idea that essentially led with the message, ‘don’t join The Army.’
Nick Terry, Marketing Director at Recruiting Group (The Army, Capita) explained how the idea was a bold one; that required The Army to trust in its agency and take a leap of faith to potentially end up with something truly creative and game changing.
After all, Nick and The Army’s brief to Karmarama was to “shift the perception of The Army as an employer.” Something game-changing was exactly what was needed.
Whilst combat roles make up only 25% of the Army, for many that’s the perception of what people are getting into. We have to make sure that people understand the commitment they are taking on.Nick Terry, Marketing Director (Recruitment Group - The Army, Capita)
Nick explained that, “Whilst combat roles make up only 25% of the Army, for many that’s the perception of what people are getting into. We have to make sure that people understand the commitment they are taking on.”
This meant being able to engage with the audience more than ever before. An idea such as Karmarama’s 2016 campaign, ‘Become a better you’ had the potential to make that connection. But without trust and support from The Army, it’s unlikely the idea would have even got off the ground.
We all wanted to think differently and break some category conventions.Charlotte Farrington, Head of Account Management (Karmarama)
Both brand and agency didn’t characterise it as risk-taking or controversy. Rather, it was a shift away from advertising The Army to advertising what The Army can offer the young people today. A tantalising prospect for a brand looking to make an impact.
Nick sees this as something that still binds the partnership: “We have the relationship in place where we’re pushed as well. We’re challenged. We think it’s so important to invest at the right level to get the right output in the work.”
Underlying it all is trust. This is something Charlotte insists belongs in the DNA of creativity: “You can tell the work in an agency that is developed in a trusting relationship. It is free, it is chaotic. It is the creative output that is king in the room. Rather than the agency looking for the ‘right’ answer that will appease the client.”
In 2017, Karmarama’s ‘This is Belonging’ campaign for The Army led to a 31% increase in applications, compared to the previous year. While in 2018, the campaign saw applications to The Army reach a five-year high. Fast forward to 2019 and the ‘Your Army Needs You’ campaign landed a PR reach of 4.8 billion in its first week. On the day the now unmistakable posters launched, more people joined The Army than any other day in the year and visits to the website were up 93% compared to January 2018.
We talk too much about brave and bold work as risky. The riskiest thing we can do as marketers is create work no-one cares about.Charlotte Farrington, Head of Account Management (Karmarama)
For such results to happen, the team needed to think differently about risk-taking. As Charlotte explained, “We talk too much about brave and bold work as risky. The riskiest thing we can do as marketers is create work no-one cares about.”
That’s not to say that the 2019 campaign wasn’t without its negative press attention. But for The Army’s part, Nick believes it’s the organisation’s responsibility to back the work all the way through, explaining how The Army “played a very active role in defending it.”
It’s a case of end-to-end trust. Nick recalled how when he first started at Recruiting Group, his predecessor would be reluctant to give an agency the time and space they perhaps needed. But for their most recent campaign, The Army gave Karmarama six weeks from creative briefing to first creative presentation, a stretch of time Charlotte says is “often unheard of today.” Yet that was Nick’s understanding of how long the agency needed to produce something truly creative based on joint learnings over the years.
For The Army and Karmarama, it’s not only been a case of trust in the work, but in the general working relationship too, from the brief right through to when the campaign first runs. Nick explained how the reward isn’t just in the results but in the relationship too, and how it thrives: “You get that build-up in trust and confidence as you get to see the results … you’re evolving the work you’re doing. You’re evolving that relationship.”