Agency, client and media owner relationships - “It’s a bloody mess”

By Brendan Coyne | 25 June 2015

The up-ending of traditional business models and structures is causing panic and deep mistrust between brands, agencies and media owners. Some of advertising’s biggest cheeses reckon the industry is heading for meltdown.

On the relationship between agents, clients and media owners, global youth media company Vice's chief creative officer, Eddy Moretti, was succinct. “It’s a bloody mess.”

“It is truly in a complete state of reorganisation from multiple forces at the same time. So many different interests. So many different business models.”

Diageo chief marketing officer Syl Saller pinpointed trust as the issue.

“There is not enough honesty between clients and agencies. Agencies are still ‘selling’ work and I think that is a really outmoded, old-fashioned view of operating,” she said.

She acknowledged that brand owners are part of the problem.

“Clients aren’t listening enough to the advice, to the thoughts, to the creative that we pay agencies to bring us” Saller said.

“We need to treat each other much more like human beings, as one team in service of one thing: growth of our brands, and for the agencies; growth of their business.”

Kantar chief executive officer Eric Salama reckoned the problem was the brand’s marketing output was divided into too many siloes, while the marketer was being bombarded with more data than ever.

“So we spend time managing that complexity as opposed to focusing on: what do people really need; what are the human and cultural truths that we are trying to tap into; how do we reach them? And for me that is one of the biggest things that we need to do.”

The three were interviewed by Unilever CMO Keith Weed to form part of his Cannes session on Wednesday. Sir Martin Sorrell also weighed in.

“The structures and the processes are too complicated. And unless we [both clients and agencies] change, we are going to get nailed,” Sorrell said.

Weed agreed. He said that focus on the channel was coming at the expense of the brand.

The problem with the rise of the specialist agencies is that you end up with someone who “really wants to drive that 110% solution for mobile, or 110% solution for search”, said Weed.

“But I want the 110% solution for my brand. Even if it is a 90% solution for mobile or an 80% solution for social.”

Given that Unilever is in the middle of a global media pitch, Weed’s call for the return of “one agency to manage the brand” is interesting. Unilever does make toothpaste. Perhaps it can prove Sir Martin wrong and put it back in the tube after all.

You can watch the video below:


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