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How Manifest found its element with a new agency model


By Awards Analyst | writer

December 5, 2022 | 5 min read

Manifest won at The Drum Awards for Agency Business 2022 in the Best Global Development Strategy category for its ‘We Build Brands That Can Change the World’. Here, we find out what went into its global reformatting of the agency model.

The team at agency Manifest

The team at Manifest global took home our Best Global Development Strategy award / Credit: Manifest

Brand communications group Manifest has been facing the same challenges faced by every agency: thriving in a post-pandemic new world order and helping its clients to do the same. To do that, it brought its global operation in line under a single vision – to “build brands that change the world” – with a focus on initiatives serving a triple-bottom-line of people, planet and profit.

The brief

To grow fees and profit margins while doing equally-impactful work for its people and the wider planet, Manifest decided to reformat its agency model entirely.

The idea

To focus on building campaigns that drive significant change for clients and audiences alike, the core of the agency reformatting was to bake a purpose-led approach into everything the agency does. That meant developing a new corporate reporting structure going beyond the realms of normal business reporting, to incorporate gender and ethnicity pay gaps, CO2 balance, development investment per head, and other non-financial metrics.

It also meant a keen focus on diversity, adding a clause to its legal contracts with clients to ensure all campaigns include representative and diverse talent. Development is another key area; aiming to become a ‘deliberately developmental organization’ led the agency to develop Manifest Diploma, a learning system. Other innovations include a suite of software-as-a-service products such as influencer platform Roger and a ventures arm, Make.

The latter has led the agency to invest in four social enterprises, including carbon offsetting and reforestation subscription platform Ecologi.

Elsewhere in an impressive array of shifts, Manifest overhauled its agency model to be more catered to our agile, interdisciplinary age. Inspired by Sir Ken Robinson’s book Find Your Element, it calls this new format the ‘elemental system’. Across seven elements of insight, strategy, creative, production, client experience, project management and operations, team members are encouraged to find their element, and teams are structured around the work at hand rather than traditional hierarchies. The model, it says, reduces admin, maximized productivity, and helps develop talent.

A new office in Melbourne, Australia (alongside existing hubs in the US, UK and Sweden) helps to fulfil the agency’s vision of a 24-hour creative service.

The results

Diversity has been a catalyst for creative work at Manifest: ‘The Boob Life’ for Tommee Tippee not only won the Grand Prix at The Drum Content Awards earlier this year, but, it says, set new diversity, equity and inclusion standards in its production processes.

Meanwhile, across the business, agency fees and profit margins have risen.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Agency Business 2022. You can see all the winners here.

The Drum Awards for Marketing are currently open for entry. Find out how you can enter now.

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