The impact of industry consolidation on how agencies work together

With (now denied) rumors swirling about the advertising industry that giant advertising holding company Publicis Groupe would swallow up Interpublic Group, the notion of agency consolidation has become almost comical. It wasn’t so long ago that independent advertising agencies ruled the industry. Today behemoths like Publicis, MDC, Interpublic, Publicis WPP and Omnicom now control the lion’s share of ad agencies.

This consolidation has wreaked havoc in many areas of agency operations – not the least of which are the numerous client conflicts that arise when one agency buys another and then the two realize they now handle competing brands, a no-no in the ad world.

But an area of concern that receives much less press and attention is agency operations – the plain, old, boring notion to how an agency gets work done. It’s not sexy but, believe me, the fastest way to lose a client is complicated and confusing operational methodologies.

But an area of concern that receives much less press and attention is agency operations – the plain, old, boring notion to how an agency gets work done. It’s not sexy but, believe me, the fastest way to lose a client is complicated and confusing operational methodologies.

As account director at an agency that had just been bought by a much larger agency, I once lost an account because the account planner (who came from the acquiring agency) was having separate conversations with the client that ran contrary to the conversations creative and account service were having. It’s not that the content of the conversations were wrong, but it made the agency look stupid.

Don’t worry, I won the client back with the most concise analysis of the brand’s business (basically doing the account planner’s job) along with a huge promise internal communication errors would never again lead to an agency that spoke out of both sides of its mouth.

But the important point to note is that the process got away from us. Oh sure, we had processes and procedures in place, but they weren’t good enough. And they were at odds with those processes and procedures of the agency that acquired us. And almost losing a client isn’t a place you want to go just to find out you need to get a handle on your workflow.

We patched things up, but that’s just one small example of what’s going on in the advertising industry today where, conceivably, one holding company could, suddenly, own another. You can just imagine the procedural headaches an acquisition like that would cause, let alone the ongoing procedural headaches that exist within agencies that were acquired years ago and are still trying to figure out how to work together seamlessly.

With agency consolidation, most attention and headlines center on client conflicts and the dumbing down of originality. It’s my humble opinion far more attention should be paid to figuring out (and fast) how to work seamlessly together because, as we all know, a well-oiled machine works much better than a bunch of chickens running around with their heads cut off.

Post by Steve Hall

Steve Hall is a marketing professional, publisher, writer, community manager, photographer and all-around lover of advertising. Steve has held management positions in media and account service at Leo Burnett, Starcom/Mediavest and others, working on such accounts as Reebok, Marriott, Monster.com and Marshmallow Fluff.

One Response to The impact of industry consolidation on how agencies work together

  1. Darren Tarlow

    @ Steve – great post! I too have seen agency clients lost at the hands of operational missteps, not creative ones. This is spot on and sheds much deserved light on an overlooked, but critical topic.

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