Jeremy Bullmore is one of the most respected figures in marketing. He’s not only walked the walked for decades but when he talks the talk, people listen. Here’s what he had say a couple of years ago in Campaign about the best way to choose an advertising agency. Just as relevant whatever the marketing communications channel.
Q: One of the big holding companies has offered to set up an ‘agency of agencies’ to service our brand, while the other group in contention has proposed a ‘lead’ agency solution. My question is this: which of the two should I accept, all other things being equal? Or should I consider setting up our own in-house agency?
A: Most service structures can be made to work – at least for a time. The way to think sensibly about them is not top-down but bottom-up. What your brand needs is not a holding company or an agency of agencies or one agency ‘leading’ other agencies or your own in-house agency. What your brand needs is the close personal attention of a number of clever, inventive and complementary digital-age people who between them have enough business sense, strategic ability and creative firepower to make your marketing money go twice as far. They should be led, cajoled, inspired, admonished and flattered by an individual who in another life would make a brilliant feature-film producer. In other words, what your brand needs is the only kind of taskforce that can get things done on a regular basis. It’s not a department, it’s not an agency – it’s that scandalously under-rated operational unit called an Account Group.
There’s a regrettable tendency to apply the term Account Group to account persons only; with perhaps the occasional planner thrown in to add a little intellectual Tabasco. That is not an Account Group; that’s a uni-disciplinary bunch of suits. A proper Account Group is by definition multi-disciplinary; it should contain every individual who is expected to make a contribution; and every member, though totally committed to each client, should work on at least one other piece of business. Total commitment does not, and should not, mean enslavement. Enslaved agency people rapidly become proxy clients and lose their value.
An in-house agency will never work for long because the best advertising people are restless, promiscuous and endlessly adventurous. Once they feel trapped, they’ll form escape teams and dig their way out.