Phil McDonald on 'deluded' approach to full service structure

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 14 February 2019
Phil McDonald

BCM agency partner Phil McDonald believes larger agency groups are "deluded" to think that the solution to the full service agency model is simply "bashing it back together" to resemble a previous structure.

McDonald, who joined the agency in August last year from WPP, has made moves to bolster the independent agency's new media offering.

He told AdNews that those creative agencies rushing to offer clients media planning and buying services may not be providing the solution clients are actually looking for.

McDonald added that as clients continue to take services such as search, SEM, SEO, programmatic and digital in-house, the concept of bringing all of these services, along with creative and media, into one agency, is no longer the solution to building a full service offering.

"For me, it's not bashing it all together, it's about having someone who understands how you navigate everything. You just have to look at the current media landscape in Australia," he said.

"Clients need a better approach to accurately attributing success to the many investments. A lot of them are asking, despite the metrics on the surface looking OK, if the sum of the parts is actually driving an optimum outcome for the business." 

He said those creative agencies rushing to offer clients media planning and buying services may not be providing the solution clients are actually looking for.

McDonald believes that many clients are happy with the separate media and creative agency relationships they have, adding it was less about agencies saying "we're full service again," and more about proving to clients that they can actually understand attribution across a customer journey.

"The real challenge is having the skills and understanding to thread it all together to achieve sales growth, not a bunch of nice-looking media metrics on a dashboard and a creative agency that can now do media planning and buying or vice versa," he said.

McDonald believes frustrations with larger holding group structures is leading to stronger client interest in the independent offering, adding there is a lot that needs to change within the current agency structure.

"It’s about a journey-based planning process that does more than target individual moments in time, but that takes into account how a brand needs to communicate across the continuum," he said.

"It’s also about issues like media negotiations moving to the creation of more integrated media partnerships. It’s measuring old school media metrics vs full attribution of investment, and changing rear view mirror reporting to real-time response measurement - and importantly, not just planning investments around setting and forgetting goals for campaigns, but rather, channel agnostic (and agenda-free) dynamic trading."

While independent agencies are smaller than their holding group counterparts, full-service agencies such as Thinkerbell, Cummins&Partners and BCM have all made significant inroads when it comes to tackling top-tier clients.

BCM isn't worried about taking on those bigger clients and winning, as McDonald explains that the ability to scale a business isn't as difficult when dealing with an independent, due to the level of agility it has over the larger holding groups.

McDonald remains confident in the agency's growing media offering since the hire of Chris Platt, former managing director of UM Brisbane, who joined BCM late last year.

Joining as director of media and engagement and as a member of the agency leadership team, Platt had been at UM for nearly two years and has also held roles in both Sydney and Brisbane at Carat, Y&R, Dentsu, Zenith and Mindshare.

"He had similar frustrations as I did. I was running a big creative company/digital company that 'wasn't allowed to do media planning and buying' and he was in a big multinational media agency that didn't have the capability to influence the content or the creative in each channel," McDonald said.

"We were both on different sides of the fence and shared the same frustration. I think it's frustration that clients feel as well. So with this move, we've been able to say to clients that we'll do our best to ease those frustrations and so far it's proved to be a good decision."

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