Part of a big agency network and proud of it!

June 12, 2009


I’m working on a global project. Many of our network’s best and
brightest from around the world are working on it as well.

Sometimes we forget how impressive a global network can be. While it’s
trendy to disparage agency networks for their politics and other sins, the upside can be tremendous. For us and for our clients.

When run properly, a global brief or pitch (often it is both) is a
thing of beauty. With so many offices on point, the ideation is
guaranteed to yield creative gold. And with countless options, the
expected lumps of coal are quickly forgotten.

Filtered through different agencies and their respective cultures, a
brief is refracted into myriad creative solutions. As a creative
director, I not only get to see work but how other people think and
feel. It is one of the true blessings of this job.

As noble as the independent agency is, or the creative boutique, there
is need for bigness in the advertising world. Because it is a world now
not just a township or a region. Big brands want to be treated
accordingly. And while markets vary considerably a brand’s DNA does
not. Understanding its common thread and articulating that across
cultures is difficult. A functioning network is better equipped to do
so than a string of disparate boutiques and specialty shops. I say,
“functioning” because not all of us do, not at the rate we should. But
a flawed global network is still better than no global network; at
least as far as blue chip clients are concerned. That’s my opinion.

I’m well aware many strains of creativity prefer smaller hot houses to
flourish. Did you know we could never replicate the “curiously strong
mints” campaign anywhere else in the world? We tried. But the work
never worked. That brands DNA, as cultivated by us in Chicago, was
never translatable in other countries. Even though Altoids hails from
the UK, the brand’s essence “curious strength” was and is uniquely
American. So globally unappreciated was our campaign it took us over 10
years to win at Cannes.

Yet sizable creative gardens can and do exist. They must. For if a
global brand is marketed inappropriately in one market or another it
threatens the brand’s identity and legacy. I don’t always believe this,
especially when I’m frustrated by a confusing brief or big agency
politics. But I get over it.

If and when an idea from my team does not make it all the way up this
international flagpole, I still feel privileged to have participated.
As do our clients.


6 Responses to “Part of a big agency network and proud of it!”

  1. i’ve never thought size had much to do with anything. (insert obvious joke about male appendage here.) to me, it comes down to the quality of the people in the room. for example, imagine if in 1966 you owned a record company and you wanted a hit record. you could choose between 20 different bands located all around the globe who would talk with each other, come up with ideas and then send you a whole bunch of songs. they were called International Songs Inc. or, you could choose four guys who came from liverpool and went by the names John, Paul, George and Ringo. I think I know who I would go with.

  2. SRP said


    I could write a whole book on what’s wrong with big agency networks (though George Parker already did!) but it seems a piece in support was long overdue. PS: Love the Beatles analogy.

  3. Andy Webb said

    “Curiously strong” didn’t play well in the UK?

    I’m surprised at that. It sounds curiously English.


  4. SRP:

    I want to compliment you for your bravery in defending global agencies.

    I think you’re deeply, seriously, profoundly wrong — but it took guts and I admire that.

  5. SRP said

    The Curiously Strong idea (as interpreted by us) was an American take on British sensibility, which is very different from a British take on itself -that’s why it didn’t work in UK.
    Like is said, I recognize the many faults with global agency networks but there are strengths and they are considerable. Frankly, it makes my job a lot more exciting, if sometimes frustrating.

  6. I remember years ago being at an Art Director’s Club event that was basically little v big agency CDs fighting it out over which was better. (Seriously. That was the point of the panel.)

    At some point I raised my hand, and asked the boutique creative directors, “but didn’t every single one of you come out of big agencies? Isn’t that what gave you all the experience to be where you are today?”

    That was one of the most fun pregnant pauses I’ve ever had the pleasure of instigating.

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