Four Adland Execs Weigh in on Global Agency-Model Debate

Size Matters: What's the Ideal Footprint For a Modern Ad Shop?

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There's no shortage of debate about what the agency of the future will look like. Much of the conversation centers on disciplines. Will agencies be integrated -- housing media, creative and digital -- or will specialty shops prevail?

And what about the importance of size? Are hundreds of offices around the world necessary in a digital age? Being smaller and more nimble seems to have its advantages. At the same time, face-to-face contact is important, so having a local presence can be beneficial. Understanding cultural nuances and maintaining local relationships can offer an edge, too -- leading some to argue that an agency without a sprawling footprint cedes a competitive advantage.

While pondering which path you would take if you were starting from scratch, read what the leaders of four well-known agencies had to say when asked to defend their model.

We'll let you decide who wins the debate. Tell us who you think makes the best case, and why, in the comments.

David Droga is founder and creative chairman of Droga5, which has two offices, in the U.S. and in Australia.

David Droga
David Droga
Two agency models define our industry: multinationals with an office in every client's city, and shiny new boutiques founded by people who ran away from the previous model (and then do everything in their power to slowly replicate it).

The problem with the Goliath or David approach is that neither guarantees quality: Scale doesn't ensure efficiency, and small doesn't mean you'll be nimble. When the major holding company model is long past its expiration date and boutiques are willing to play on the periphery, there has to be another way.

Our expansion plans aren't predicated on the number of doors we want to open or regions we want to conquer. They're about expanding our offering and redefining the nature of what we do. Beyond great work rooted in real purpose, we aspire to elevate and help retool, redefine and revitalize our trade. It's just not enough to be one of the best in this vulnerable industry.

Growth is necessary and exciting, but it cannot be at all costs and without integrity. We've grown alongside clients with similar ambitions -- partners who have the courage to see beyond quarterly results, and brands that hope to define this century, not just tick the boxes. And we plan to expand only in ways that live up to our mission statement and values.

Our latest business investment, a freestanding technology development studio, is ... an example of expanding the canvas, not just the geography. Our model for the agency of the future is to continue making great advertising, which means producing work with a moral backbone and constantly questioning the ramifications of what we do.

We're in the business of selling. But if you're willing to sell everything, you are left with nothing.

Simon Sherwood is global CEO of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, with six centers: London, New York, São Paolo, Singapore, Shanghai and Mumbai.

Simon Sherwood
Simon Sherwood
There are no right or wrong answers, just different ones. Only agencies with strong reputations started in the past 30 years have a choice about size, driven by the client list and ambition.

Our agency started in the early "80s, built a domestic reputation and began expanding in the mid-1990s. We observed the rise of global media, global consumers and global brands. So it seemed time for a new model, a micro-network of regional centers of excellence, delivering world-class strategy and creativity. We didn't know whether that would require four or 14 offices, but we were certain it didn't need 80. Our aim was to deliver the maximum coverage from the fewest locations, and right now we have six.

But the key for us is not the number of offices. It's that each is driven by a creative agenda and develops specialties (mobile, data, insight, music, etc.) that the rest of the group can draw on. We need to be able to come together when working globally, as well as operate as strong regional and local forces. Ours is a network of concentrated, connected world-class talent who can be accessed from any point by clients.

Moray MacLennan is CEO worldwide of M&C Saatchi's London-based network of 26 offices, including Auckland, Geneva, Moscow and Berlin.

Moray MacLennan
Moray MacLennan
If you're a multinational advertiser and are asked to design the structure and nature of your ideal agency network, how many offices would it have? As few as necessary, and that 's neither one nor 100 but somewhere around 26, our current tally. Because what it's about is efficiency.

Efficiency requires precision in delivery of ideas and work, which in turn requires innate understanding of cultural nuances and sensitivities. Only a structure that recognizes that an office in Singapore doesn't mean that "Asia is covered" can deliver this. On the other hand, technology has left the "agency in every country" model looking distinctly 20th century. The number of dots slows things down, and speed is important these days.

Efficiency is about structure, but it's even more about quality, and quality comes from two things, people and culture. So the question becomes: What type of network do the best people want to be part of ? We give the managers of each office significant equity, which makes them think like entrepreneurs. Our people are with us because they want to be, not because they were acquired. They are like each other and they like each other, which is important when developing a culture that attracts the right talent.

Andrew Robertson is the CEO of BBDO Worldwide, which has 289 offices in 80 countries.

Andrew Robertson
Andrew Robertson
We are about creating and delivering the world's best work. And we want to do more of it than anyone else. It's good for all our clients, everywhere.

It's also about how we can secure an unfair share of exceptional talent and maximize our capacity to produce more of the best work.

It would be naive at best and arrogant at worst to presume that the greatest work comes from, and that the best talent resides in, only the biggest markets.

For example, in the inaugural Effie Effectiveness Index the world's most-effective agency was in Colombia (Sancho BBDO). A couple of years ago, the most-awarded print campaign came out of Malaysia (BBDO). And last year the radio Grand Prix went to a South African agency (Net#workBBDO in Cape Town).

So the answer to the question, "How many agencies should you have?" is "As long as they are capable of delivering truly exceptional work, as many as possible."

If I was starting today, I'd be starting with one, and adding them slowly and carefully. I am not, thankfully. Bruce Crawford and Allen Rosenshine spent decades building the BBDO Worldwide network, agency by agency, with the focus first and foremost on talent and the work.

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