Tuesday, April 05, 2005

WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic — Are Big Agency Networks Going to Become Content Distributors?

Last week, Ad Age seemed to verify the rumorsthat Motorola was talking to a number of creative shops about a branding assignment. Hardly surprising news, despite the fact that Ogilvy & Mather has done decent work on the account.

What I found interesting, however, was the statement that, "...it is possible Motorola will retain Ogilvy or another global agency as a distribution network." Motorola, and others, seem to realize that it would be wise to farm out creative projects to various agencies while still retaining the services of a large multinational for media buying and planning. Again, that in itself isn't entirely new, but calling this "distribution" really struck me. It's odd, but the use of that word seems to force big agencies and the holding companies to justify the existence of their creative departments.

Recently, I was talking to a senior-level marketing person who remarked that he believed the media arm of his agency was really his marketing partner. He does still use the same large global shop for creative, but the reality is that creative has become the final piece to fit into the puzzle. It's not really that difficult for a large company to pick and choose creative partners according to the needs of a project.

The big agencies and the holding companies could, in the future, adopt the movie studio model. Today, the big Hollywood studios usually just provide distribution and financing, while the actual moviemaking is left to studios such as Lion's Gate or small studios spun off by the big studios (Fox Searchlight, New Line, etc.). Applied to advertising, this would make big agencies the planners and the buyers of the media — the distribution and the financing — while smaller operations would compete for creative projects on a project basis. As a business model, it would probably make more sense for everyone.

It only stops making sense if big agency creative departments are cranking out work that is dramatically superior to the work done by the so-called boutiques. And I think most people would agree that's something that's just not happening.


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