Every few months, I find myself in situations where the same ‘global’ questions are raised by corporate marketers to their agency partners. Just recently, this emerged at some different meetings and lunches where a few clients and prospects asked their agency partners (which included Peppercom) what their global capabilities are and/or what’s the best strategy for leveraging agencies on a global scale.
In one meeting, a few different agencies from the advertising, digital and PR world proudly touted the breadth and depth of their 30 and 75 office global network. They walked the client through global campaigns that had been launched for other clients, dazzling the client with how simple this feat was and how the same natural replication could take place on this client’s behalf. I really didn’t say too much during these conversations, because although we do have an international partner network (comprised of good like-minded agencies across the globe,) on the surface it doesn’t trump wholly owned global offices.
At the end of one of these conversations the client finally came around to me and asked why I’ve been so quiet on this matter. (She clearly is used to my never shut up attitude.) She also asked what I thought could be the best solutions for her company as it needs consistent communications and branding around the world. My answer was simple. I exclaimed that there is no silver bullet solution to leveraging agencies to do this. I further elaborated by explaining that while global agencies have a ton or resources, the reality is that most have been put together through acquisitions creating offices in different markets that specialize in quite different services and core capabilities. At that point, I could feel the tension in the air from my agency partners (one actually gave me a pretty negative smirk.) But, I was on a roll and figured it was time to talk reality here.
So I explained my experience at the ‘biggest of the bigs’ (J. Walter Thomson) as a case in point. I told her that when we needed to offer strategy and/or execution for a consumer product client in 25 markets around the world, my experience was far from positive because the Frankfurt office only had financial services people working there and the Paris office really only focused on fashion. Thus, it was almost impossible to really offer in-depth experience and knowledge that could provide value to our client’s need consistently across the globe.
Now, I was feeling completely toxic among this group (for speaking the truth). But, hey… that’s what the client asked for. Naturally, her next question was, “OK, what should we do, then?” I reiterated that there is no one stop shopping, easy answer. My suggestion was to have one lead agency enforce the strategy across the globe and find the best partners in key pockets that have the same mind set and experience to become good local partners. Some of the local partners would undoubtedly come from offices of the agencies sitting around the table (including our International Partner Network,) but we may need to go outside this group to find a few new ones in areas where real gaps exist.
Interestingly, the dynamics changed among this group at that point. This was mainly because the client was starting to think differently about her situation and what she needed to do (and everyone saw that.) Any jockeying for position as the ‘one stop global agency’ stopped (at least at that meeting,) and we all started working together to figure out which shop had what pieces to make this puzzle complete. While I don’t think that anyone there (except the client) appreciated my candid thoughts, it served to open up a valuable lesson learned for this client. Easy to implement, ‘one stop shop’ global solutions for clients simply don’t exist. (Note to all clients: If you are being sold this bag of goods now, I’d think carefully before agreeing to anything.) As I wrote, there is no simple solution. But, if a variety of agency partners are willing to truly work together using an integrated philosophy (it will take a lot of work,) but the job can still get done.