Enfatico CEO Answers Critics: 'We're Resetting' Agency Bar

Torrence Boone Speaks Out, Says Shop's About More Than Just Dell

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Torrence Boone believes his agency is misunderstood.

Mr. Boone, who this summer left his post as president of Digitas, Boston, to lead WPP Group's Enfatico, says that contrary to what observers think, Enfatico -- built from scratch after Dell handed WPP its three-year, $4.5 billion marketing contract in late 2007 -- is not just an in-house agency.
Torrence Boone claims the agency has already turned away small business.
Torrence Boone claims the agency has already turned away small business.
Instead, it's a newer, smarter agency model built for the current advertising landscape. Mr. Boone admits, though, that part of the reason Enfatico is misunderstood is because it has not been transparent until now.

Mr. Boone sat down with Ad Age at Enfatico's New York office for his first interview since taking the role -- and ahead of his first public address to the industry at this week's Association of National Advertisers annual Agency/Client Forum.

Advertising Age: Where does the agency stand in terms of staffing and operations?

Mr. Boone: We are in great shape. We have close to 1,000 staff members worldwide, and we have transitioned 90% to 95% of the work that was accounted for by the 800-plus agencies around the globe. Most of our efforts to date have been focused on taking on that work, which you can imagine is a gargantuan task. ... But the official inception of the agency was in March, and what the team has accomplished over the course of the past several months is phenomenal. We're resetting the bar in terms of how to evaluate what a marketing and advertising agency delivers for its clients. ... It's not all about how many ads you are producing; it's about what's the strategic infrastructure that you are building to make smarter marketing decisions.

Ad Age: Hiring 1,000 employees across all of your global hubs seems challenging, especially considering that at the time being, you have only one client.

Mr. Boone: We haven't had difficulty attracting talent, frankly. Particularly at the senior levels, we have people who are incredibly excited about this model. ... Whether you are an account person or a creative person or a planning person or a PR person, most people in the sector realize that the current model isn't working.

Most would agree that the marketing and advertising sectors desperately need to reinvent [themselves], and part of the drivers of that relate to media fragmentation, consumer empowerment and, most importantly, the fact that everything is global these days. A company like Dell, and actually most multinational companies today, recognizes that the vast majority of their growth is going to come from outside the U.S., in emerging markets. Traditional agencies are based in the U.S., fundamentally New York-centric ... many are incredibly bloated, not cost-efficient, organized around 30-second television spots and huge broadcast production budgets that are evaporating.

At Enfatico, we are talking about true integration, everything under one roof, zero legacy, one profit-and- loss statement, analytics, cost efficiency. We're media agnostic ... all of these things provide a much-differentiated value proposition.

Ad Age: The agency has been pretty harshly criticized by the press, and watched with skepticism on Madison Avenue. What do you say to that?

Mr. Boone: In some ways it's not surprising, because we are trying to do something radically different, and I'm a student of history: If you look whenever there are movements, innovations, things that question the status quo, and particularly when you are challenging big institutions -- and the traditional Madison Avenue agency world is a big institution -- you are going to meet resistance. I think it's a function of individuals who want to hang on to the way things always have been, who are intimidated or don't want to believe there could be another way of doing things. If anything, it's strengthened our resolve.

Ad Age: The ability to bring on additional clients is probably the one thing that is going to be most crucial going forward. What are the prospects?

Mr. Boone: We've already turned away business, which is a little-known fact, and we have been approached and are in dialogue with prospective clients as we sit here today. It is my hope that within the next six to nine months we have a new client on the roster.
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