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Ideas Created Elsewhere

Dell CMO's Comments on Split Between Creativity and Distribution Reveal Core Challenge for Big Agencies

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Of all the segments of media and marketing Ad Age covers, the one that seems most endangered by all of the forces re-shaping the business is the big creative agency. This is something I've said before, and if you're looking for proof, look no further than The Wall Street Journal's Aug. 22 q-and-a with Mark Jarvis, Dell's new chief marketing officer.

Jarvis opens up about Dell's agency review and notes that to accomplish his timing goals for a new campaign, "we may split creative and execution." He's then asked why he uses the small independent agency Mother, and his answer is that "they're incredibly creative" and a "great cultural fit." Size, he says, doesn't matter, except when it comes to "global capacity." For that, he implies, you need a big agency.

And that is a neat summary of one of the biggest problems facing top shops. Marketers are open to good ideas from any partners, including their media agencies -- hell even their media vendors. They're using boutiques for creative concepts. The resulting danger is that they reduce the perceived value of big agencies to efficient engines for global distribution of strategies and concepts developed elsewhere.

When those large creative agencies lose their seat at the strategy table, their first instinct is probably to tell the client to fuck off. But they can't, because they're a core part of a publicly traded holding company that needs to show revenue growth. So they accept the reduced role and wait around in the hope the boutique will screw up and they'll have another chance to pitch their creative solution.

Call it an unfair generalization; I call it a clear view of an issue agencies have to confront and conquer to make it to the next round.

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