Emirates' lead agency: A network of partners

IAA congress: Airline giant, others discuss role of shops in shifting arena

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Agencies need to think beyond the consumer, and provide a wide range of services "if they want to reclaim their seat at the top table," Mike Simon, divisional senior VP-corporate communications at the Emirates Group, told the 40th International Advertising Association World Congress in Dubai last month.

Mr. Simon, one of several speakers and panelists who discussed the changing role of agencies in a shifting media environment, called on shops to offer such services as brand definition, organizational design, internal engagement, environmental design and training-as well as the more traditional creative and media products.

Emirates itself does not have a conventional agency relationship. Mr. Simon said the Dubai-based airline for the past six years has run what it calls a "virtual" network. "We don't have a 'lead' global agency. Instead we deploy a network of partners [roster and sometimes non-roster] to work on local and global briefs. It's a marketing-communications ecosystem."

Emirates' brand management handles the flow of information through its Web site among the corporate-communications department, business units and over 100 local agency partners. Mr. Simon said the vast majority of briefs, developments, approvals and invoicing are coordinated through the site.

And while many U.S. advertisers are putting more focus on nontraditional marketing, Emirates is going the other way. It will invest over $250 million in marketing communications this year, but too much of it is going into sponsorships and not enough into advertising, Mr. Simon said.

'enough is enough'

The airline-the second most profitable in the world-sponsors 345 different events, with the biggest being the FIFA World Cup Finals. "We now feel enough is enough and future years will see advertising grow at a higher rate than sponsorship as we move toward a 60/40 split," with advertising returning to its traditional 60%, Mr. Simon said.

Brand communication plays a pivotal role in driving growth of revenue and profitability. "Revenue because we are growing 30% a year-from a high base-so this requires substantial awareness, driving measures in new markets, international brand-building as well as tactical advertising in mature markets And profit because we believe that brand building is about sustaining price premiums. Sales volume is less a yardstick of advertising performance-our experience is that advertising influences price more than sales. And yield improvements go straight to the bottom line," he said.

Two IAA panel sessions took up the knotty subjects of advertising integration and media-agency rebundling.

Howard Draft, CEO of Draft, said integration works best when there's a strong client to crack the whip, one who says, "No politics, any agency who tries to poach clients is out, and I'll decide how the money will be moved around."

When it's not clear in the integration process which is the lead agency, "the custodianship becomes fragmented and the specialness of the brand gets eroded," said Marcio Moreira, vice chairman of McCann Worldgroup.

"I don't see any serious discussion about media agencies being reintegrated" with traditional agencies, said Dominic Grainger, managing director of GroupM for Europe, Middle East and Africa. "It's not necessary."

Colin Gottlieb, CEO of Omnicom Media Group Europe, Middle East and Africa, said it's a "nonissue" that creatives can't work with media agencies. "It's a fallacy that creative agencies don't get it," Mr. Gottlieb said, but he added that the number of account people who have "great sensitivity to their brands" is diminishing.

Susannah Outfin, CEO of Carat International, said the major benefit of unbundling the media-buying function has been "greater focus and accountability," resulting in "much better solutions." She predicted that in 10 years, when 70% of media will be digital, there'll be a closer alignment between creative and media. "The new form of integration will be with creative," Ms. Outfin predicted. Mr. Gottlieb foresees the aggregation of data and knowledge as the big advance in the next 10 years.

John Pallant, EMEA regional creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi, talked about a new creative system being used by the agency on a pan-regional basis called Tribe. The idea is for the best creative teams, no matter what disciplines, to get together across regions to come up with big ideas-fast. The twist is that the teams start sharing ideas within a couple of hours, and any team is free to work on any other team's idea.

'passion, purpose, people'

Collaboration was also stressed by Jim Stengel, chief global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble Co., who called on the industry to renew its focus on "passion, purpose and people," which he said is "our greatest opportunity."

Mr. Stengel added that the agency world hasn't innovated enough to customize the talent in their organizations to help build brands. "What we're learning from Gillette," he said, "is challenging many of our paradigms."

Mr. Stengel showed some video clips of both P&G people and P&G agency executives, including Dan Wieden, principal of Wieden & Kennedy, the company's most recently appointed agency. Mr. Wieden said he was skeptical how two such "opposite cultures and alienating points of view" would mesh, but he's come around to thinking that there's strength in such a mismatch.

Despite all the advances the digital world is bringing to bear on marketing, Allen Rosenshine, chairman, BBDO Worldwide, declared that branding won't change in the face of the ongoing explosion of technological growth.

"Information on the Internet isn't branding," Mr. Rosenshine said. "Pop-ups aren't branding. The convenience of cyber-shopping isn't branding. ..."Branding is emotionally and dramatically communicating a product's human reason for being. It's the same as always."
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