Agency competition: The Boys of Summer?

June 25, 2008

Given we are in the so-called “creative awards” season I’d like to reflect on the notion of competition in our business. Hunting for awards is one of the ways we compete against each other. But the competition for new business is perhaps more grueling and, given one needs clients to make award-winning work, even more crucial to an agency’s livelihood.

In fact, I was so intrigued by the pursuit of new business, I actually wrote a book about it. The working title of that unpublished manuscript is “Fever Pitch” and it’s all about the pitching process and what it feels like to an agency and the people in it. I continue to be fascinated by rivalry between agencies, and the way in which we “play off” for a given client’s business.

The parallel to professional sports is both eerie and telling. Agencies are truly like ball clubs. We have coaches, star players, win-loss records, and even trade press following our progress.

Think about the competitive landscape in North America. Big cities (New York, Chicago, LA) have big agencies: JWT, Leo Burnett, DraftFCB as well as newer upstarts like my club, Euro RSCG. Smaller markets field some of the most competitive newcomers (relatively speaking), such as CP&B out of Miami and now Boulder. Or Fallon in Minneapolis. The metaphor gets better the more you play with it. For instance does not BBDO feel a lot like the New York Yankees? They win. They have pedigreed coaching. Big stars. And a stellar record in terms of new business and creative awards. I look at Crispin as an expansion team that shocked the world, kind of like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during their World Series run. They might not like being tagged “lovable losers” but doesn’t Chicago’s own Leo Burnett remind one of the Chicago Cubs? Despite endless near misses and could haves and should haves, LBCO keeps pushing along, remaining a popular team regardless. And what about Management? Is Martin Sorrel the Steinbrenner of our business…or the Bill Wirtz?

Which team does your agency remind you of? And would you want to hang their pennant on your bedroom wall?


5 Responses to “Agency competition: The Boys of Summer?”

  1. Jargon said

    Funny…I mentioned steroids issue in an earlier post. Fits here well, too. Agency “teams” make fake ads to compete the same way athletes use steroids.

  2. SRP said

    Sadly,yours is a perfect comparison. Steroids and scam ads. Both help teams win. Both are cheating.

  3. Zach O. said

    Does that make Butler Shine Stern and Partnres the White Sox, coming out from under the shadow of more popular team (agencies) from the same team (Goodby, Venables, etc) to win the World Series (MINI, Columbia Sports, Epson and other accounts) to put them on the map? If BBDO is the Yankees and DDB is the Dodgers does that make Wieden & Kennedy the Red Sox? This is fun. I look forward to the reading the book.

  4. SRP said

    I also like the idea of small boutiques (minor leagues) advancing to the pro-level. Can the players do it without fake ads (steroids) or big clients (fat cat owners)? Damn right!

  5. PeterRabbit said

    I think ad agencies are more like soccer teams. They run around forever and hardly ever score. Goallllllllllll!

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