While much of the media coverage to date has focused on the advertising implications of the Omnicom-Publicis merger announcement, the fact is many of the top public relations agencies in the world are in the portfolios of these massive conglomerates.
In the initial announcement, John Wren, CEO of Omnicom, said “Omnicom and Publicis Groupe are reshaping the industry by setting a new standard for supporting clients with integrated messaging across marketing disciplines and geographies.” It may be tempting to buy into this bigger is better argument, but those who’ve worked in agencies know the truth – for the average client, it’s simply not going to happen.
The dirty secret of big PR agencies
Here’s what an agency person will never be able to tell you: different companies under the same conglomerate umbrella are usually very competitive with each other. In fact, different branches within the same agency are rivals, and even different office locations of the same agency branch compete.
That’s right – even within the same XYZ agency, the New York office wants to win your business over the San Francisco office, and they’re often loathe to work together once the account is won (despite what they may say in their proposal). This ingrained competition, multiplied by dozens of agencies in the merger deal – many of which last week were competitors – is not a recipe for efficient innovation.
As with everything, there are exceptions to this rule. Anecdotally, younger companies often have less inter-office jockeying than the agencies that are decades old (especially if the agency founder is still actively engaged in client oversight, typically ensuring there’s less room for shenanigans).
But while international conglomerates can rightly argue that their portfolios boast leaders in digital, PR, advertising, marketing, etc., putting multiple agencies to work for a single client often results in a difficult-to-manage Frankenstein agency.
The indie difference
In contrast, forward-looking independent firms, both solo and boutique, have nimbly adapted in recent years to address the needs of clients, with integrated and silo-free approaches all under one roof. Yes, I am biased, but while many large agencies are still struggling to rebrand and re-position in 2013, the most successful indies are years ahead in looking at marketing differently.
The evolution of the marketing mix isn’t new, and most independent firms – free from “old school” labels – have embraced new skillsets and offer additional integrated services that meet the expanding real-world needs of their clients. Contrast this with all the talk of shareholder value in the merger announcements (dollars and cents that come from clients, after all), and I know where I’d want to put my business.
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