Advertising agencies are constantly in pursuit of greater productivity and increased morale. Two wildly different studies provide insights on how to achieve the results everyone is chasing. This first study is research into egg production. The second reveals which factors matter the most when executing a strategy. Both provide valuable lessons that can be applied at your agency.

Chicken Fight: All-Stars versus Average Joes

William Muir, an evolutionary biologist at Purdue University, conducted a study to understand the productivity in flocks of chickens. Muir compared the egg laying productivity between two flocks. The first flock was an average flock that was left alone to breed and interact naturally. The second flock was an all-star flock that consisted of the individually most productive chickens. Only the highest producing chickens of each generation were bred in the second flock.

After six generations, the production of the chickens was evaluated. The measure of productivity in simply the number of eggs being produced. Which do you think produced more eggs, the average flock or the all-star flock?

Surprisingly, after six generations the average flock was outproducing the carefully managed all-star flock. Furthermore, the average flock was healthy and happy. Meanwhile, the all-star flock was down to only three chickens. The rest had been pecked to death.

While humans won’t peck each other to death, at least not in a literal sense, there are similar social constructs.

The lesson is a group’s ability to work together is more important to overall productivity than having a group of highly productive individuals.

Chickens seem to have egg production pretty well figured out, but how can this insight be transferred to the advertising world? Let’s take a look at a more traditional business study to find out.

Executing strategy

In a study published by Gary L. Neilson, Karla L. Martin, and Elizabeth Powers in Harvard Business Review, Booz & Company took a five-year look at strategy execution in over a thousand companies. What they found was that most organizations aren’t very good at executing on their own strategy.

Employees at three out of every five companies rated their organization weak at execution—that is, when asked if they agreed with the statement “Important strategic and operational decisions are quickly translated into action,” the majority answered no.

To get the answer to why companies fail at execution the group worked with more than 250 companies to help them execute more effectively. They observed many companies putting an emphasis in the wrong areas when trying to increase effectiveness. Often times these actions led to temporary fixes that didn’t address the fundamental problem hampering execution.

When a company fails to execute its strategy, the first thing managers often think to do is restructure. But our research shows that the fundamentals of good execution start with clarifying decision rights and making sure information flows where it needs to go. If you get those right, the correct structure and motivators often become obvious.

Booz & Company also determined and ranked 17 traits that impact organization’s ability to deliver on the strategy.

The one trait that came out head and shoulders above everything else was “Everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he or she is responsible.” In other words, making sure that everyone on the team knows what they’re responsible for and has access to the information they need is the most important thing companies can do.

In advertising, this is easily overlooked because the need to meet the deadline by any means can take precedent over anything else. However, ignoring the obligation to set an adequate framework that both empowers employees while holding them accountable leads to inefficiencies and missteps throughout the execution of strategy.

Media plan execution is a form of strategy execution

What can these two studies teach us about advertising and specifically media planning and media buying? First, remember that media planning is a form of strategy execution. Building advertising packages, managing a budget, and scheduling placements are all tactics that go into the larger strategy to achieve your goals.

The most important part of effective media planning is the performance of the media department. Remember the chickens? The media team’s ability to work together as a collective is more pivotal to the results than any individual’s productivity – even the media director’s.

The entire team needs to be aware of the need to work towards the goals as a cohesive unit instead of pecking each other’s head to be a super planner. With that settled, the Booz & Company study can serve as a guide on where you need to concentrate for optimal execution of the strategy.

Advertising agencies have some pretty loose wording when it comes to job descriptions, most come with the clause of “other duties as assigned.” It’s enough to get a general idea of what the job should be, but a lot of the finer details are cloudy at best.

Flexibility is important in advertising, but it’s imperative to remember the top trait that Booz & Company identified, “Everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he or she is responsible.” This means clear assignments and channels of communications both up and downstream need to be established and maintained. Media directors need to entrust their team with appropriate decision-making responsibilities and provide coherent deliverables to planners and buyers, not just a mass email to the team. In short, make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what they’re expected to do.

Once these pillars are all sturdily in place you can begin to look into any additional tweaks that need to be made to further optimize execution.

Keep everyone on the same page

Getting on the track to increasing productivity requires vision, leadership, commitment, and perseverance. It also helps to have the right tool.

Bionic puts media planning, marketing performance monitoring, and project management in one place. Consolidating the team on a centralized database like Bionic Media Planning Software makes it easy to stay on the same. The entire media team can see exactly what everyone is working on so there’s no confusion on what they’re responsible for.

You can learn more, see a demo, and find out how you can start working smarter here: