The idea of pulling from multiple marketing services agencies to create a single team to serve a large client isn’t a new idea.
This is one of the more effective ways that the large holding companies throw around their weight. Omnicom used this model to win the McDonald’s ad business last year. WPP won the Dell PR account some time ago with the same tactic. It goes on all the time.
Now P&G, a company that spends more money on advertising than any other on the planet, believes it’s cracked the code on cost-effective creativity. Not only is P&G going to build a stand-alone team dedicated to their business, but they’re also going to pull the talent from different holding companies, including Publicis, WPP and Omnicom.
Take a gander at these quotes from Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, in The Wall Street Journal:
“We need to continue to raise the bar on creativity and the ability to reach consumers in a new way … The way things are moving, it’s [about] much more mass reach but with greater one-to-one precision and far more creative engagement with consumers. It’s a new model. That requires new agency models.”
“‘What we found, when you have a Super Bowl or Olympics deadline, you have high degrees of speed and focus and make things happen,’ Mr. Pritchard said. ‘What we want to really do is institutionalize that approach.’”
So the solution to achieving these objectives is to poach talent from a bunch of agencies and establish Team Frankenstein?
Anyone who touches the creative side of marketing always talks about this being “a people business.” I guess P&G has concluded that the culture of an organization — not to mention reporting structures, career development, etc. — isn’t that important in getting the best work out of these particular people.
If P&G desires speed and focus and accountability (make things happen), I think the solution is already out there.
They’re called boutique agencies.
The fun will really start when something goes awry or an individual’s performance doesn’t measure up. A Publicis executive is leading the new group. Wait until P&G is unhappy with one of the creative directors who happens to be from Omnicom and P&G insists that the person be replaced. Must the replacement come from Omnicom? If not, how does this impact Omnicom’s cut of the money pie? And who takes the hit for bringing the new person up the curve? And oh, by the way, it could be that the Omnicom creative feels undermined by politics that originated with his/her boss who happens to be from WPP.
Years ago we supported several parts of HP’s enterprise business on the PR front, but not the largest part. Cunningham (before the Citigate acquisition) supported HP’s server business unit.
HP decided that all of its enterprise computing business should be under one team. Thinking that each agency had too much institutional knowledge to pick one over the other, they figured why not gain the best of both worlds. Plus, each agency would have been challenged to scale for the assignment. They asked us to sit down with Cunningham and come back with a plan, process and team dedicated to HP’s enterprise computing business that leveraged the best from both organizations.
We did exactly that. Everything looked good on paper, HP signed on the dotted line, and we were off and swimming.
Unfortunately, the Cunningham talent, particularly when it came to media relations, started to struggle after a few months. To borrow from the TQC crowd, the root cause was Cunningham’s decision to offer an account team that tilted toward the junior side.
Our initial reaction was to be a good partner and do our best to spackle over the issue so it wasn’t visible to the client. The issue worsened over time, leaving me to ponder why we should be increasing our investment in the account when the partner enjoyed the higher margins that came from a more junior team. I didn’t want to throw the partner under the bus with the client. At the same time, the trajectory of the account wasn’t fair to us. Fortunately, HP figured out what was going on and turned over the entire account to us the following year.
Right, messy stuff.
And our tag-team effort had a fraction of the complexity that awaits P&G’s Team Frankenstein.