Brand agencies: Evolve or prepare to be assimilated

(Disclaimer: Even though I say it somewhere else on this site, the opinions here are always my own)

While working on an article about brand ecosystems, I came across an interview Diageo CMO Andy Fennell recently gave to Marketing magazine.

Here are some choice quotes:

– Given your marketing challenges, what type of agency do you need today?

There’s one thing that we will always need from our agencies – brilliant creative ideas. That’s what we are buying – big ideas, full of flair to surprise our consumers. At Diageo, when we work with an agency it is the number one priority. Sure, account servicing and all that stuff is relevant. But the reason we buy an agency’s service is because of its creative flair.

That said, we can no longer segment the different aspects of an idea in the way that we used to. We need agencies that can see the totality of our engagement with the consumer, whether that is blogger outreach, social networking conversations, long-form content or more traditional advertising. Almost always, we need agencies collaborating with each other around what we end up showing to the consumer.

There are very few, if any, agencies that are able to do everything. So, we need our lead agencies to be able to see the whole idea and collaborate with partners in order to deliver to the consumer something that joins together and makes sense. We talked about integrated marketing for years. It’s been a buzzword in agency land. Now it is absolutely required. If it’s not integrated, the consumer rejects it.

– If it’s all about getting consumers to participate, do you still need big campaigns?

Not big advertising campaigns, but we need big brand ideas. When you have more and more people collaborating, you need a big idea to hold it together. The difference now is that you don’t start with an ad campaign. You start with an idea that allows people to participate – so we talk about ‘participating platforms’.


You can read the rest here.

No big surprises for brand agencies there, you might say, but here is a thought…

When the entire marketing world becomes hyper-integrated and idea-driven, two of the core elements that used to set apart Brand(/ing) Agencies in the past become hygienic to the entire creative industry.

The concept of having a “Brand agency” in such a world, makes as much sense as having a “Positioning Agency” or a “Differentiation Agency”. Branding is just too important as a mode of thinking in marketing to be fenced off and left only for one type of agency.

That’s why if you look across recent innovations and best-practices in brand management, you will find a wide variety of agencies involved.

That’s why the more clued-up about branding clients are becoming, the more they are likely to give branding work to other agencies or even do it themselves.

And, guess what? We don’t get a prize for being the first to realise the importance of those ideas or for being the pioneers of practicing them.

So unless we prove on a daily basis we are the best at creatively combining clarity of definition with the power of execution…

The best at connecting creed, consequence and community.

The best at coming up with “long” integrative ideas for participation and engagement platforms.

Then brand agencies will go down in history as passing phase.

A mere symptom for a moment in the evolution of marketing.


Ah, well… At least our mission should  be clearer.


1. Slight revision and a similar situation is rippling through the Digital Agency sphere.
2. I think integrated and idea driven may be the two key attributes of contemporary marketing. I would love to hear if you think there are other attributes that are as big. (Action? Community?)

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