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Mark Pritchard, Proctor & Gamble’s CMO has asked Publicis, WPP and Omnicom to create a hybrid consumer agency to service a portion of his North American business. The collaboration, he hopes, will yield better creative and better economics. (Insert silent giggle here.) When the boss asks for something and is willing to pay for something, you do it. Mr. Pritchard is the boss and the biggest ad spender in the neighborhood.

As proof of concept, he points to the wonderful anti-advertising Tide Detergent campaign aired during the last Super Bowl. But there’s a massive problem with the logic. Ad people are very ethnocentric. Very egocentric. Did I mention competitive? Especially creative people.  Leonardo da Vinci let some talented interns mix the paints and sketch on some canvases, but he wasn’t collaborating.

Every time someone trots out this hybrid agency idea or the idea to have a totally dedicated brand shop, it’s failed.  As Faris says, “ideas are recombinant.” Egos aren’t.

This dedicated agency model may save money, it may make a couple of goods ads, but it won’t attract the best people and certainly won’t foster the best creative. Ring around the agency.




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Omnicom and Publicis agreed over the weekend to merge.  Como se unexpected? The story even made front page of The New York Times. The spin was all about big data. More people, more devices, more messages. And the best way to reach all these things is through smart use of earned, owned and rented data.

Data companies are finding new and exciting ways to track people. And it’s only just beginning. Home thermostat apps can indicate when a person is at home, road side cameras can log when a license place passes a dinner, voice activation apps can capture when a body needs a sushi fix.

When I pitch Twitch Point Planning to marketers and their agents I explain the offer in three words: understand, map and manipulate.  Big data feeds the understand and map components. Capture and organize data.  But as David Droga rightly says in the article on the merger (last para.), someone has to do something smart with the data. (When everyone has the understand and map tools, data will just become a commodity.) And that’s the subtext not covered in the Times article. Ad agencies are best at creating the manipulative message. Not bad manipulation, but good. Important. Heartfelt and personal. Dare I say poetic.

I agree that marketers will do understand and map in-house. But the manipulation part, they can’t do well. For this, even for a one-on-one mobile phone ad, they need professionals. If you want to follow the money, this merger is about good old fashion creative, not chunking data. It bodes well for agencies of all size and stripe. Peace! 

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ITT announced yesterday that it will split into three companies.  Sara Lee is considering splitting into two companies. And as you know, I believe Google will split into 3 companies in the next 5 years.  All this makes me wonder what’s in store for the big public ad agency holding companies?  What will IPG, WPP, Omnicom and Publicis look like in a decade or two?

The drivers of divestiture are usually varied margin and profitability spans.  In the case of ITT, the military business is not as profitable as the water pump business.  In agency holding companies, I wonder if there are discreet businesses with differing margins? 

Our business has changed much in the past 5 years thanks to the computer and digital marketing.  Analysis and reports, once the provenance of humans are now much more automated.  Translating the big selling idea across platform was always the heavy lifting, but today many media forms are converging. Content is still where the money and margin is in marketing.

If I were a betting person, I’d suggest a bifurcation of creative and analytics. Move the analytics companies nearer the energy plants so the computer farms are cheaper and run the creative companies in urban centers closer to all the stimuli. Patsy Cline? Fast forward. Peace!

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Twitter and Skype just made executive moves at the top in efforts to take their fast growing, oft used businesses in the direction of profitability.  Both companies are moving past their infancy. The venture partners helping drive the strategy of these two exciting, brilliant tech companies are pushing for stronger, more “grown up” management.

This makes me think about digital marketing shops — other businesses coming out of the infancy stage.  Do big holding companies like IPG, WPP, Omnicom and MDC Partners cut digital companies more slack than traditional marketing companies? My bet is they do.   The young, filled-with-promise always get the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I’m guessing the financial people at the holding companies don’t quite know how to manage profitability of digital clients just yet.  Because digital is the fastest growing sector in marketing, profit blemishes are being masked.

Digital business people grouse that they don’t get a seat at the big person table when it comes to planning. Often, the “idea” is already cooked when the didge shops are brought in — the big expensive thinking complete.  What is left is the digital translation, a degree of digital creativity and execution… much of which can be performed by lower cost worker bees. If this thesis is correct, then the per capita payroll of a digital shop is lower than that of a full-service ad shop. This is why the profit margins are lower, why digital shops don’t scale past new business, and why they are not getting a seat at the big table. This will change, but will probably lag the pace of change at companies like Twitter and Skype. Peace!

PS.  RGA does not fit into this mold. They have strong highly paid talent throughout. They are the exception.

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MDC Partners is a marketing services holding company with a brand strategy.  That’s right, they have an idea. IPG doesn’t, though back in the day one might have assigned them “entrepreneurship.” WPP, Publicis, and Omnicom don’t have ideas, though perhaps at one point Omnicom might have owned “creative.”  At holding companies the powers that be feel brand strategies are not really needed.

MDC Partners owns talent. “Where great talent lives” is their idea. For some, that might be a platitude or poesy but for Miles Nadal, CEO, it’s a real strategy.  As a practice, MDC does not own a majority stake in its companies, it owns 49%.  This insures that great talent will stick around.  Their hands-off approach also insures that the talent stays great.  Though I only know Mr. Nadal through his actions and deeds his focus is solely on the leaders he hires, not their output.  Any person who has been around this business knows managing people is easier than managing work output.  Talent is what drives great marketing.  The talent to see what sells, the talent to package it, and the talent to promote it has driven the business since soap suds.  Never mind if that talent is traditional, digital, mobile or whatever’s next. (What could possibly be next?)

 MDC Partners stock grew last year while every other holding company’s tanked. Campaigns come and go and talent comes and goes, but in the marketing world “talent” is a powerful idea. Peace!

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What’s the idea with Tropicana Premium Orange Juice?

I’m okay with updating the Tropicana Orange Juice carton, which Omnicom’s Arnell Group just did, but not to the point where it looks like a milk carton, which they also just did. Losing the trademarked orange with protruding straw was a mistake.  That icon was the fastest, easiest way to convey positive feelings and associations about the product. And it helped differentiate Tropicana from all the water and flavor-added orange drinks. A glass of juice does not bring forth great images from the recesses of the mind the way an orange does. Ahhh orange blossoms.

The new idea using the word “squeeze” as its center point is a dual strategy. It is meant to make up for the loss of the orange and at the same time drive consumers to thoughts of wonderful human images. Nyet! I do love the new cap on the carton though, shaped as half an orange. It would have been a great accent on the old carton.

Seems like Tropicana may have gotten the “B” Team while Mr. Arnell and his people were off logging hours on the Pepsi redesign.


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Bank of What?

Bank of America has been in the marketing news more for the way they bundle  their advertising and marketing agencies than for the branding itself. Not too many years ago, BofA made news by hiring a holding company — Interpublic Group of Companies – to do its bidding. Not long after Bruce Nelson, an IPG officer, moved to Omnicom and the BofA account followed. Yesterday, it was reported the CMO of Bank of America has decided that the bundled approach is a mistake, not allowing for best-of-breed marketing solutions. 
Okay, so what’s the idea?
If you must know, the branding idea for BofA is “Bank of Opportunity.” You’ve seen the TV ads where people are daydreaming about their future and it comes to them through some sort of almost rainbow-like logo’ed window? Say what? Bank of huh?  
Bank advertising today is so bad and so lacking in ideas that the only thing left to talk about is the arrangement of the agencies.  This category has to change.   

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