What does Brian Sparks do?
Consultant, Trainer and Lecturer at Agency Assessments Ireland – the leading consultancy in Ireland for agency reviews (pitches) and advice on getting the best out of your agency partners, roster management and payment by performance reviews.
What route did you take to this role, i.e. what did you study in college, experience on the way?
I have a classic business education with a B.Comm from UCD and an MBA from the Smurfit Business School. Along the way I have had many years’ client experience at the coal face of marketing for Irish Distillers in Dublin and Guinness in Ireland , Malaysia and Africa. Along the way I also worked on the agency side for Irish International (BBDO) and as Managing Director for McCann Erickson in its Dublin office. Plus guest lecturing at the Irish Marketing Institute, Irish Management institute and Smurfit Business School. Since joining Agency Assessments I have managed a multitude of pitches and client/agency relationship projects in Ireland, UK , Europe and the US.
How important do you think continued up-skilling and continuous professional development is to marketing?
The pace of change in marketing and the channels of communications is rapid. Only the consumer is keeping pace with these developments. Unless we as marketers stay on top of the learning curve we run the real risk of being left behind. It is no longer tolerable to just be aware of developments. Continuous professional development demands an insightful understanding of their implications for us as practitioners and for the changing role of marketing and communications in the wider societal context.
What benefits can attendees hope to obtain from attending training programmes ?
A practical guide to best practice briefing underpinned by practical ‘best practice’ examples from leading companies and brands.
What do you consider is the key criteria for training to be effective?
Loads of real life examples and case studies. Loads of questions. Loads of participation and dialogue from participants.
What do you believe are the challenges facing marketers today?
Everyone talks about the pace of change and the challenges of the technical revolution. They are of course right. These are major challenges. But the real progress can only be made if we fully understand how people and communities face up to and adapt to these changes. In the past companies and brands grew by talking AT CONSUMERS. Now the balance has shifted so that CONSUMERS hold the balance of power. Companies and their brands need to play a much more responsible and socially conscious role in the markets that they participate in and in the communities that they sell their brands. Underestimate the power of the consumer at your peril.
What trends are shaping marketing briefs in 2019?
There is an increasing recognition that briefs now need to be centered around developing communications for a much broader range of channels. It used to be just ‘off line’ and then over recent years it then included ‘online’. But now briefs need to take in many other channels and influences including PR, Events, Sponsorships, internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, Business to Consumer , Business to Business, Touch Points, Paths to Purchase, Acquisition, Retention and the diversity and segmentation of audiences that will be targeted.
Finally marketeers need be conscious of the wider context in which the resultant communication will be viewed. The Media are an ever waiting critic when brands over step the mark.
What are the current challenges that marketers face around crafting an effective agency brief?
All of the above !
And finally to whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
It is great that marketing has become much more accountable and measurable and that knowledge is spread so widely and so freely. I take my inspiration from Effectiveness case studies and there are many to choose from here in Ireland (AFFX) and abroad (EFFIES). And Creative awards (Cannes in particular and ICAD/Shark locally ) provide an enormous gallery of great creative work to review and take inspiration from. And hats off to the Irish agencies that won this year in Cannes. They call it punching above our weight
Brian Sparks is the trainer of the Marketing Institute’s How to write a Creative Brief taking place on 9th October 2019. More details on https://mii.ie/event/creative-brief