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For Wongdoody, the 'sad state of life at holding companies' is good news

Ben Wiener joins the Ad Lib podcast to discuss his shop's 25th anniversary and its acquisition by Infosys

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Ben Wiener
Ben Wiener Credit: Max Sternlicht/Ad Age

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The agency Wongdoody not only has an interesting name, it's had an interesting 2018. The Seattle-based creative shop celebrated its 25th anniversary this year — and as it did so, it was acquired by Infosys. The Indian tech giant, once known for offshoring jobs, has increasingly moved into domestic tech and consulting services.

It is, says CEO Ben Wiener, a great time for an agency like Wongdoody. As the big advertising holding companies continue to fumble, Wongdoody is seeing double-digit growth, he says. It is winning new business and expanding globally.

"If you're a client, it's tough right now. Clients are way more open to non-traditional solutions that are being put together for them. Whether it's by agency groups creating bespoke agencies, consultancies, in-house agencies, all the models are up for grabs right now," Wiener says on the latest episode of the Ad Lib podcast. "We have a level of creative you're not seeing typically inside the consultancies. You combine that with a level of scale offshore, it allows us to service largest clients on global basis."

Wongdoody has the creative chops; Infosys provides technology, scale and infrastructure. A Wongdoody lifer, Wiener started at the company as an intern in 1994. Now he runs the show from his perch in Los Angeles ("It's the biggest agency I've ever run," he jokes). We discuss industry trends at large, including what Wiener calls the "sad state of life at agency holding companies," as the year winds to a close and what's next for Wongdoody in 2019.

"The way you do business as an agency typically is you find a client, and you wrap your arms round them as tightly as you can, and you hang onto them as long as possible, and you charge as much as they let you get away with because of scarcity," he says. "We can do everything a traditional agency does, but we can look at cost and structure … no other agency has a parent company with a proprietary AI platform."

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