After spending time at shops including Razorfish, Saatchi &
Saatchi and, most recently, Chicago's Cramer-Krasselt,
where he led digital media and innovation, Mr. Mandelbaum is
setting up this new shop in his Windy City backyard. It's early
days: the agency has yet to be named, but is close to signing on a
CEO from the big-agency world, he said. The aim is to be up and
running -- around the clock -- by the end of the third quarter.
Mr. Mandelbaum claims he's held meetings with several retail and
consumer-product advertisers who expressed interest in hiring a
24/7 agency, and also said "There is interest from holding
companies to back this sort of venture." That's despite the fact
that many ad holding companies already have global agency networks
that are technically "always-on," given they have a footprint in so
many different time zones. But Mr. Mandelbaum argues that most of
those firms don't have expertise in social media, community
management or content creation and that they don't necessarily work
on the same clients all around the globe.
The idea of running ad agencies on the same schedule as an
emergency room or convenience store seems pretty outlandish. But
there is research to back up the theory that social-content
programming and response to customers is happening based on what's
convenient for the 9-to-5 agency worker, not what works best for
A Buddy Media survey published a few months ago found that
Twitter engagement rates for brands -- especially in the fashion,
entertainment and sports categories -- are 17% higher on Saturday
and Sunday compared to weekdays, but brands aren't taking
More recent research, in the form of a YesMail Interactive
study, suggested that marketers are deploying their Facebook
marketing campaigns at the wrong time of day, saying that many
brands reach the highest level of interaction with consumers before
bed time, between 10 p.m. and midnight, but that opportunity is
squandered because it's the timeslot least used by marketers.
Mr. Mandelbaum predicts that agencies in the future will need to
maintain more of a newsroom mentality and behave like media outlets
and blogs that have folks working around the clock to monitor and
report breaking news.
"There's precedent for it, and it can be done as long as there
is a culture to support it," said Mr. Mandelbaum. "There are
companies like Google and Facebook that have an environment that is
conducive and friendly and sometimes more productivity happens when
there are less distractions."
Recruiters' reaction: Good luck. "I'm getting pushback right now
in the social-media and digital-media space with regard to
work-life balance because it's already 24 hours to a large degree,"
said Linda Schaler, managing director at Stephen-Bradford search in
New York. "Making it officially 24/7 would be incredibly
challenging unless the incentive is so great that it'd be worth the
trade off. And I don't know what it would take. For my candidates,
salary wouldn't do it; they are being paid pretty well, and people
in social media and digital can get good jobs right now. More and
more are pushing back and trying to protect their family time. I
think there'd be tremendous resistance."
The 4A's declined to comment, but at least one local agency
executive was less than thrilled. "What a great way to further
commoditize our business," said Peter McGuinness, CEO of DDB, Chicago. "We're
already in the service business and stay as long as it takes to get
the job done. Sometimes you work 40 hours a week and sometimes you
work 80 hours. It's not like we go home and shut off, so to try and
create a business model out of that and spin it and position it as
something new or interesting is a lot of navel-gazing."
"The problem with our industry is not whether or not we get the
job done," he said. "The problem is that we're commoditizing what
we do, working at lightning speed, which compromises the quality of
what we do, and having an agency that is set up to be an 'Ads 'R'
Us' isn't sending the right signal."