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  • David Meikle

Brands must forge their own paths.

Earlier this year Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Proctor & Gamble, made a significant and important speech at the 4A’s transformation conference in LA.  Pritchard made a few critical (in both senses of the word) observations that will ring true to varying degrees to advertisers and their agencies.

One of Pritchard’s observations was the need for consolidation of services into more of a one-stop-shop model.

And here is where other brands start scratching their heads and asking themselves: “Should we do that, too?”. And often they conclude very quickly that what’s good for P&G must be good for them as well.

It’s happened a number of times in the past, and it continues to be the case, marketers copy. As my friend Mark Earls, author of Copy Copy Copy, will tell you, copying can be good, useful, productive, efficient – but it has to be the right kind of copying.

Take, for example, the consolidation of agency resources. Nobody would argue that it would strengthen client/agency relationships. If you start having three meals a day in my restaurant instead of just lunch you become a very important customer – and it’s the same with agencies.

But it isn’t this straightforward. If you’re a business with the buying power of P&G and the resources of P&G then fair enough perhaps – this might be the agency strategy for you. But what if you’re not? What if your competitors have the pick of the agency bunch and your own agency isn’t ready or able to consolidate services? Should you ditch and pitch? What if your brand is a less frequent advertiser and it’s easier for your brand team to manage the complexity of integration with a few agencies rather than pay for that service through a lead agency model?

Other trends, such as taking a new campaign brief to market for a pitch, or briefing projects instead of appointing full-time lead agencies, have also reportedly been followed in recent years. But the cost of running a pitch is a loss of continuity on the brand when a good re-brief might have sufficed, and the price they pay to be nimble with project briefs is not only continuity, but also efficiency and even less loyalty from their agencies.

I’m sure Pritchard’s strategy makes perfect sense for P&G’s business need: fewer agencies to which you are therefore a more important client will service you better than many to which you represent less revenue.

All I’m saying is that marketers need to forge their own course, not necessarily copy a market leader just because they’re a market leader. Marketers need to start with their own business problems, categories, competitive sets and resources and figure out specifically what they want for their business. For some it might just be to choose one or two agencies instead of a handful, equally the business need might mean the opposite. As much as it is more difficult to forge your own course, the wrong course can be as dangerous as taking the wrong prescription. 

But now there is a road map by which marketers can chart to right course for their agency needs …

How to Buy a Gorilla, released this Thursday June 29th by LID Publishing, tackles the challenge of knowing the right course for your brand and your business – to improve agency performance, and thereby brand performance and return on investment.

Find out more at

David Meikle

Author and Founder How to Buy a Gorilla.

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