Honda UK’s head of marketing Carol Wolrich on the most interesting agency models of the moment

Honda’s senior marketer in the UK Carol Wolrich talks to The Drum about how the business is adapting to an increasingly fragmented agency market that’s being disrupted by the proliferation of content and ad technology.

“True content agencies are the most interesting new model where they combine good SEO thinking with content,” said Wolrich, who is serving as Honda’s interim head of marketing in the region. “However I do think they will ultimately get absorbed into more mainstream thinking.”

Advertisers are more open to working with different kinds of ad vendors, having concluded that the traditional approach to marketing – with advertising at the core – is no longer enough; they want a better balance between creativity and strategy.

Finding agencies with that balance is a struggle in a market where vendors are “notoriously bad at differentiating themselves”, added the car marketer. The result being that “you default to people you know or someone in your team knows”.

Honda is in the midst of a review of its European media account, which has been handled by Starcom Mediavest Group since 2010 when it was estimated to be worth €150m. The car maker has said in the past that it needs its agencies to understand the entire purchase path and have a holistic grip on the business - not just the brand - in order to develop marketing that’s going to drive growth

“It’s usually a combination of strategic thinking, good creativity (generally) and trust in the team put forward,” revealed Wolrich about what sets an agency during a pitch.

“One of these on its own isn’t enough. For example, I’ve hired a digital agency that didn’t deliver the best creativity on the day, but it was clear from their work on other clients that they were capable of both good work and innovative thinking. However they gave me confidence that they could deliver.”

When asked by The Drum about what alternative pitch models Honda is exploring, she indicated that it was open to working with agencies on a project by project basis. It’s indicative of the wider debate around the death of the ad agency retainer, with a rise of project work a side effect of the cost pressures heaped on marketers in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.

“I’m in favour of working with an agency on a project if it’s practical as you can then get a much better understanding of their capabilities and whether the fit is right,” said Wolrich.

Wolrich will be joined by other client and agency speakers from New Look, RBS, GlaxoSmithKline and Havas later this month (24 November) at Brief Encounters to give agencies key insights to help them win new business. To register, click here - /briefencounters

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