Brands look to agency networks

Marketers including Carhartt, Mazda and The Sports Authority, have flocked to agency networks in the past two months, partnering with coalitions such as Team Detroit and VivaKi to leverage the expertise of distinct firms under one management structure. 

One reason brands are turning to holding companies’ networks is that “networks have finally caught up with specialty shops, in terms of their capabilities and skill,” said Larry Mickelberg, chief digital officer at Euro RSCG Life Worldwide, part of the largest unit in the Havas holding company.

Team Detroit, a WPP network that specializes in automotive and includes JWT, Young & Rubicam, Wunderman, Ogilvy and Mindshare, has attracted non-automotive clients with what Brad Audet, EVP and managing director, calls a “wheel” approach. The Sports Authority named Team Detroit its AOR after a competitive pitch against Arnold, Deutsch, TracyLocke and Lambesis. Clothing brand Carhartt worked with the network on a Q3 brand repositioning campaign.  

“Each wheel is a composition of the various disciplines,” said Audet. “There’s a business leader who runs the wheel, which is dedicated to the individual client.” The network includes services ranging from creative and planning to CRM and point-of-sale, and its structure breaks down walls among agencies and allows ideas to be shared between specialties. 

“Having a portal into the larger WPP network was obviously a great selling advantage,” said Audet, who noted that Team Detroit also tapped WPP agencies Fitch and Blast Radius for Sports Authority-related work.

Elsewhere, Mazda’s North American unit named WPP’s “Team Mazda” collaboration its AOR, replacing Doner Advertising. The work includes direct mail, digital and on-site events. Mickelberg said Euro just won the account of a “global pharmaceutical company,” but declined to name the company.

Jack Klues, CEO of Publicis’ 16,000-employee-strong VivaKi group, said scale is the biggest benefit of multi-agency networks. 

“Our most differentiating aspect is our open-source architecture and ability to partner inside and outside of our organization,” he said. “Anywhere there might be a question or gap, we can always find the solution sitting inside our organization.” 

Yet not all brand marketers are convinced that an agency network is the best option, say experts. “If you’re married to one holding company, you may not get the greatest, best-of-breed specialties across the board,” said
Sean Corcoran, a senior analyst at Forrester. Dell, for instance, has dissolved the Enfatico collaboration.

However, he added that in tough economic times, a consolidated network gives marketers “fewer contracts to deal with, fewer bills to pay, and fewer people to manage all the different agencies.”

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