'Why is it my job to herd all these cats'? Nissan marketing chief Roel de Vries on agency relationships

Nissan’s marketing chief, Roel de Vries, has pointed to a lack of integration within agencies as the main factor for brands failing to achieve a consistent, ongoing, relationship with customers across multiple markets and touch points.

Because the past 10 years have been about learning “the fashion of digital,” as de Vries labelled it, marketeers have been experimenting with a lot of initiatives, “creating a lot of bling,” and “spending a fortune on little pockets” across the business.

“A big part of it has made our marketing less efficient than the traditional TV ad, which it shouldn’t, but it is. If we look at all the analysis, traditional media is still doing extremely well, and it’s not because traditional media is more powerful, it’s because we and our agencies are still in the learning process of how we engage people.”

And the lack of consistency brands suffer has not been helped by the sheer volume of agencies keen to sell services across these pockets, he added.

“We created this world and all these agencies make money out of that. Everyone is pitching the latest idea to everybody.

“There’s sixty agencies sitting [in front of me] and they all have companies and all want to make money and will say, ‘I can do brochures, I’ll do PR, I’ll do digital, I buy display, and I can make a TV ad but then I have to give it to someone else’.

“We use AKQA and how do I make sure what they do, or what DigiasLBi [another agency on the Nissan roster] does, is linked to what TBWA does? Why is it the clients’ responsibility to tie it altogether. Surely that’s what we have the agency world for?

“But it’s my job to herd all these cats and put them in a room and say please ‘talk to each other’,” he said.

De Vries told The Drum he believes clients have understood this problem faster than agencies.

“The agency world is not ready [to change]. They have companies for everything and we need to one agency with different specialties to deal with [bringing consistency to a business].”

He envisioned that within five years agencies would have come back to an integrated model. But to encourage a change within its own business de Vries created Nissan United last year after telling Omnicom it no longer wanted contracts with multiple agencies under one holiding company.

The Nissan-dedicated unit within Omnicom is staffed with people from the car maker’s main agencies, including OMD, Critical Mass, and Interbrand.

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