In My Opinion: Nikki Simpson: AMMO – what do we mean by collaboration?

LAST week saw the first event in what we hope will be many for the Association of Media and Marketing Organisations* – or the fantastically-named ‘AMMO’, for short.

The AMMO Assembly was a long time in the making.

There had been talk of joint lobbying, on behalf of our members; of an one-day conference with the great and the good from each of our memberships; of collaborative research; and much more – watch this space for future events and initiatives.

But in true creative industries’ style, we decided on a drinks reception as our launch event, to introduce everyone to the AMMO brand and simply just get people talking.

Collaboration’s a funny thing, though.

Our headline speaker at the AMMO Assembly, Muriel Gray, was asked to speak about just that – creative collaboration – but opened with the question, “Aren’t you all in competition with each other?”

There were a lot of different disciplines represented on the night – marketing, publishing, research, advertising, design and media – so there were plenty of opportunities for partnership; but the fact remained that many of the companies would at some point or another be pitching for the same work.

So how can we come together?

I recently met with a new magazine publisher who was nervous about the brilliant work he was doing being copied by another publisher, who had a similar target audience. But what’s the point in worrying? His work, by its nature, is in the public realm, as is the work of all of the disciplines identified above.

Why not, instead, meet with the competition and learn from each other? That’s what membership organisations are all about – accepting that there’s competition, coming to events to pick up tips and ideas to improve your own work, finding ways to work together, and shouting about the fantastic industry that we’re all a part of!

Maybe we take the word, ‘collaboration’, too literally – I’m not necessarily advocating joint pitches for work (although I wouldn’t warn anyone off them, either). Maybe it’s just a matter of thinking beyond the immediate future of your company.

If you’re employed by one marketing company (or publisher/designer/researcher/advertiser), chances are you may decide to work for another one in the future, so get to know your competitors as potential future employers.

The same goes for company owners – you may want to sell your company one day, either to a competitor or investor, so get to know your potential buyers.

Another way is to learn directly from each other – do a work-swap where you go to a similar company and learn how they do things, pass on that knowledge to your team and then invite the other company to come to you. You’ll both have strengths and weaknesses that you can learn from, and you’ll develop a mutual trust and respect that could be built on for future projects.

I expect I’m preaching to the converted for anyone who attended the AMMO Assembly.

But for those of you who didn’t, why not come to the next one, join your industry’s association or simply pick up the phone to a competitor?

As the representatives from each of our industries, it’s easy for the AMMO board to see the opportunities out there (just ask us for suggestions); perhaps too easy in that we want the creative industries in general to thrive, rather than just one company.

By working together we can continue to build a fantastic industry in Scotland, one that attracts talent, work and yes, potential collaborators.

* The AMMO members are:

PPA Scotland

Design Business Association

Direct Marketing Association

Institute of Practitioners in Advertising

Market Research Society

Marketing Society

Nikki Simpson is business manager at PPA Scotland.

Pic: David Anderson.