3 ways brands and agencies can work better together
As brands from AAA to Zenith gathered at the Association of National Advertisers' "Masters of Marketing" conference, many attendees were quick to discuss the ideal client/agency model. Brands that have been around for decades and are looking for a fresh way to tell their story may go searching for a new agency partner. Others looking for a variety of ideas have turned to a mix of agencies to piece together the right plan. And some hot brands prefer a do-it-yourself approach, relying on only a limited amount of outside expertise.
We spoke with Buffalo Wild Wings, Pearle Vision and Oatly to get their thoughts on agency relationships and other matters on their minds.
Watch the video above for more, or read on below for a deeper dive into each brand's story.
Buffalo Wild Wings is beginning to roar back thanks to some blunt talk from its new agency that led to a revamped marketing approach. Visits to its restaurants are now on the rise, says Chief Marketing Officer Seth Freeman. Just a couple of years ago, same-store sales and visits were declining.
Buffalo Wild Wings was gobbled up by Arby’s parent company Inspire Brands in February 2018 and six months later Seth Freeman joined as its chief marketing officer. He soon hired new agencies including The Martin Agency on creative.
“They were so good to help us really find our voice and find our rhythm,” Freeman told Ad Age on the sidelines of the Association of National Advertisers’ “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando this month. “The brand had been through so many ups and downs. And as we were trying to re-establish ourselves, re-establish our credibility, we went through an extensive agency search.”
Buffalo Wild Wings picked The Martin Agency primarily because it told the truth, says Freeman. “They called our baby ugly and there was something to that,” he told Ad Age.
Pearle Vision was founded in 1961 in Savannah, Georgia, by Dr. Stanley Pearle, with the intent of putting patient care above everything else. But as the brand grew into a retail giant, it lost its way, attempting to win customers by touting discount deals on glasses at its 500 locations. As a result, Pearle lost its differentiation in the market as people saw it as just another big-box chain.
“Trying to be everything to everyone means you are nothing to nobody and that is exactly what we had become at Pearle,” Doug Zarkin, Pearle’s chief marketing officer, said during a presentation at this week’s Association of National Advertisers “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando. “Marketing is about positioning, positioning is about the art of sacrifice,” he added, meaning that brands that try to do too much often fail.
Oat milk marketer Oatly is one of the hottest brands in food and beverage thanks to ads with a bold voice that are done completely in-house. Just don’t thank the in-house agency—because Mike Messersmith, the brand's U.S. general manager, asserts the brand doesn’t actually have one.
He rejects the term "in-house" because "that still implies a bit of the somewhat transactional nature of briefs and separation," he told Ad Age in an interview at last week's Association of National Advertisers' "Masters of Marketing" conference in Orlando. There is no official marketing department and there aren’t brand managers because the company wants to eliminate any barriers between the creative work and the strategy.
“When we can remove those impediments, we think we come up with more relevant, interesting advertising that makes people actually consider the product and the food in a different way,” he said. Rather than reviewing brand awareness studies or demographic positioning, they focus on the brand voice. "The only standard is, is it world-class? If it’s not, we should go back and try to do it better,” Messersmith told attendees.