Publicis Gives Clients 'One Neck to Choke'

New Model Unites Agency Teams for Nintendo and Kellogg Under Single Leads

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CHICAGO ( -- It isn't called the "Insight Factory" anymore, but the integrated-agency model Publicis Groupe announced in November is reshaping the way the holding company handles some of its largest clients.
Jack Klues
Jack Klues

Designed to foster greater cooperation between sibling agencies in different disciplines, the group has begun awarding ownership of some of its major accounts to individual shops. Nintendo, which uses Leo Burnett for creative, Starcom for media, Arc for promotional work and Digitas for digital, is now led exclusively by Starcom, with staffers at the other shops reporting directly to a Starcom lead. Kellogg, on the other hand, is now a Burnett-led business.

Obvious decisions
In both cases, according to Publicis Groupe Media Chairman Jack Klues, the decisions on who should lead each account were "obvious," because Kellogg -- with its iconic brands -- has always been creatively driven, and Nintendo's dozens of annual launches aimed at different audiences have always forced it to lean more on its media agency.

Clients and account leaders say the changes make it easier for them to integrate their messages across multiple platforms, change the mix of agency personnel without new paperwork or invoices and, perhaps most important, to hold one person accountable for the work of an entire multidisciplinary roster.

"I call it 'One Neck to Choke,'" said Leo Burnett Exec VP John Sheehy. His jugular is on the line at Kellogg, where he leads a team of Burnett, Starcom, Arc and Digitas staffers who later this month will move into a single office space.
John Sheehy
John Sheehy

Mr. Klues, who supervises the unnamed collaboration, said the transition to more integrated accounts has been "easier than I anticipated. But that's probably because the clients wanted it."

Old clients buy into new model
Indeed, the early adopting of the new agency model by some of the agencies' oldest clients is a clear departure from other recent agency mergers and integration efforts that tended to leave existing accounts alone and to instead focus on new business. The 2006 combination of Draft and FCB, for instance, hasn't led to much change on long-held pieces of business such as Coors Brewing Co. and S.C. Johnson.

Kellogg Chief Marketing Officer Mark Baynes said he pushed for the shifts because he felt they were the best way for the marketer to replicate isolated successes it had in rolling out integrated programs for its Frosted Flakes and Special K brands. "Sometimes in the past, we haven't had people seeing across the lines, but in the new structure it's really impossible to go into a meeting without thinking about integration," he said.
Mark Baynes
Mark Baynes

The new model is also ushering in changes beyond account management. It's spawned a consultancy called "Ignition Point," which aims to build off strategic data insights, as well as a combined production center that will allow all the work on a given account to be produced together regardless of whether it'll run online, on air or elsewhere.

Just don't call it 'rebundling'
The new model still hasn't proved it can win new business for the shops, although Burnett's North American president, Rich Stoddart, said he was "bullish" on that front. A key early test is expected from the forthcoming review for MillerCoors' consolidated media account. None of the executives interviewed would comment about preparations for that pitch, which are said to be ongoing.

It might be easier to sell if it had a name. After the "Insight Factory" moniker was announced with fanfare and industry pablum along the lines of "right-time, right-size solutions," the name was ditched. "I don't know [what to call it], I just hope we can avoid 'rebundling,'" said Mr. Klues.