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Do clients really need bespoke agencies?

Summary: Can they serve clients better or do they engender a whole set of new problems, asks Nick Cooper

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Like the 12th floor at the Ogilvy offices in London's Canary Wharf, the agency of the same name that has just scooped the British Air- ways global digital account doesn't exist.

At least not in tangible form. The 12th Floor is more a wry comment on a consortium of comms specialists coming to- gether in virtual form under the OgilvyOne umbrella to meet a wide-ranging client brief. And, just maybe, to put down a marker for the future.

Of course, the idea of com- pany 'dream teams' is nothing new. Only a couple of months ago, WPP set up Team News, a multidisciplinary unit drawn from across its agencies, in order to nail down News Inter- national's $45 million account.

Such arrangements already exist in the Middle East, says Tanya Dernaika, regional planning director, Memac Ogilvy, even if they aren't off- icially flagged as 'bespoke agencies'. "Large multination- al clients in the region are al- ready enjoying the benefits of much smaller scale versions of such arrangements, with their businesses being run by dedi- cated teams, hand-picked from a bouquet of media, advertis- ing, digital and PR agencies."

She thinks that as media be- comes increasingly fragment- ed, clients today need agencies with different specialisations and this calls for more complex arrangements.Integrated,mul- tichannel campaigns have been proven, time and again, to be more effective in the MENA region as in elsewhere in the world, says Dernaika.

Tarek Miknas, CEO of the FP7 Group, agrees that while clients don't need actually need bespoke agencies, there is merit in getting specialist indi- viduals into one team.

"Wecanseethelinesblurring amongst the various communi- cation disciplines. Media con- verging into grey areas of ad agencies blurring into areas of PR, and so forth.A client would typically prefer one point of contact to manage all commu-nication requirements. And integrate them to get consist- ent messaging. But to set up specific agencies to handle one piece would be a tough sell to clients taking on 100 per cent of a full team structure and covering their costs. Ultimate- ly, clients would prefer that agency networks figure out how to achieve integration in a more cost-effective manner."

Miknas believes the biggest benefit to a bespoke agency would be its 100 per cent team dedication and integration. Obversely, the biggest chal- lenge such an arrangement provides would be economic.

Impact BBDO Dubai's gen-eral manager, Talal Sheikh Elard, doesn't believe that cli- ents want to be the guardians of the 'big idea' nor the integra- tors, due to a lack of capability and/or expertise."Instead,they want to rely on one party to help them make the informed decisions that are best for their brand or business, rather than the agency's business. So, yes, a bespoke arrangement could be the solution for clients any- where, but they would have to need it and not want it because it's a trend,"says Elard.

But what do clients think? David Porter, media director, Unilever North Africa, Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine

& Belarus, is well placed to comment on bespoke allianc- es, having been close to several collaborative agency partner- ships in his career.

"They are challenging to manage.There must be a clear, unequivocal leader - both an individual and an organisa- tion," he explains. "But there also must be plenty of space for everyone to contribute and for the best ideas, not the strongest personalities, to win the day."

For him, at the end of the day, marketers are looking for 'best in class' services. "If agencies feel they can best deliver this through collaboration, then they should collaborate. This happens already, but largely out of the client's line of sight: many agencies outsource the most specialist work. But this is rarely transparent so there is no guarantee of 'best in class' delivery across all disciplines," says Porter.

That's not all. Finding a natu- ral lead agency, which cannot automatically be assumed to be the traditional ad agency, and then establishing ways of working and being rewarded that reduce complexity can also prove difficult. "Most agencies are inherently com- petitive and territorial - it's in their DNA," says Porter. "So partnerships can unravel into talking shops or tyrannies, nei- ther of which are particularly helpful. It is never pretty to watch two agencies at logger- heads. For clients, it can be a re- lationship killer."

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Publication:Campaign Middle East
Date:May 7, 2012

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