June 3, 2019 Gray Dudek

What Facebook’s latest appointments tell us about ensuring the right mix of agencies for your business

Facebook’s appointment of a broad roster of agencies shows that there should never be a one size fits all approach to marketing for major brands. Gray Dudek, Founder and Technology Director at Giants & Titans and former senior marketing professional at Mars Incorporated and Capita Business Services, discusses the different types of agencies and how to get the right mix for your business.

Conventional wisdom states that big brands need big agencies. If Facebook’s latest changes to its roster tell us anything though it’s that a more nuanced approach will produce better results.

While the world’s largest creative agencies have been invited to the top table in the guise of Publicis’s Leo Burnett, WPP’s Ogilvy and Omnicom’s BBDO, room has also been made for the retention of Wieden and Kennedy and Droga 5. This isn’t to mention the fleet of smaller agencies that will sit underneath the headliners delivering campaigns across Facebook’s five areas of focus.

What global CMO Antonio Lucio understands is that a large agency-only approach will provide only limited results. Whereas multiple agencies of different sizes all working towards a common goal can deliver a lasting impact.

While many will be envious of the budgets available to Facebook, an overall understanding of the different types of agencies and their relevant merits can help marketers establish what may be missing from their roster.

At both Mars and Capita, I worked with a range of agencies and found that each could be categorised as either an oil tanker, a powerboat, or a speedboat.

Big network agencies are the oil tankers. They are large, full of crew who operate in a set hierarchy and do things the way they have been done for decades. They are undoubtedly great at transporting large loads from A to B but try getting them to change direction – they need to engage reverse gear for three miles just to stop!

Then there are small agencies & in-house teams: the speedboats. Built for speed with a single minded purpose, they’re great for quick journeys & tasks but where real power is needed they usually fall short.

So what if brands want to explore somewhere new and exciting? And get there quickly with expert guidance? Enter the powerboat agency. Powerboats are fast, adaptable and nimble with an onboard crew of key specialists who solve problems together. They’re quicker & sharper than the oil tanker and more high-tech and skilled than the speedboat.

Powerboats can go to places oil tankers simply can’t, but they also have the capability to power forward on bigger journeys too.

Powerboats can’t do everything of course – sometimes an oil tanker or a speedboat is the perfect solution. Yet, more and more experts are recognising the role of the powerboat agency in a multi-agency line-up. As Ruth Bernstein, co-founder and chief strategic officer at New York-based YARD, which lists clients including Virgin and Gap says:

“Big brands with big vision are looking for agencies that can match their perspective, not their size.”

The question for marketing managers and directors is – what do you have in your fleet of agencies? An oil tanker, a speedboat, a powerboat, or – like Facebook – a combination of all three?