All change here: Why BBH, Saatchi and others are shaking up their agency models

The Drum has assembled an enviable panel of magnificent minds from the industry and beyond to identify the latest trends and brilliant ideas shaping our space. Here’s what’s been exciting them lately…

BBH London's offices

RAR’s Steve Antoniewicz looks at the ways in which some of the big name are agencies embracing change.

There’s been much discussion in recent years around how the agency model needs to change, but outside of a few cases there’s been little real evidence of this being implemented. Thankfully, this year’s Ad Forum European Summit proved that some big name agencies at last seem to be doing more than mouthing platitudes.

Of course it takes a long time to turn around a super-tanker and many of the biggest agency groups are still playing catch up with the demands of the market and their clients, frantically adapting their structures and services.

Nothing is impossible

The summit opened with a lunchtime appointment at Saatchi & Saatchi, at its iconic office for the last 40 years on Charlotte Street. It will certainly be the last visit for the forum to that office with the agency set to move later this year. In a clear indication of a new and slimmer operational structure emerging at Publicis Groupe level, it will likely share its new office with other group agencies.

We heard from new group chief executive Robert Senior who told us on one hand about the major changes in leadership and structure, but on the other how it must focus once again on its original mantra of ‘nothing is impossible’.

A slimmed down and concentrated worldwide management team will lead the charge for what Senior promised will once again be a confident Saatchis.

As well as renewed focus on creating landmark creative properties for clients it will also provide access to its newly acquired specialisms in content, analytics, mobile and e-comms – not services one might expect from Saatchis, but services clients now demand.

Black sheep...

A similar theme emerged at BBH, also part of the Publicis stable. My overriding impression was of a lot of innovation across all parts of the agency.

Under the heading of ‘connected specialisms’ the agency presented its propositions for digital production, e-commerce and sport, and chief exec Ben Fennell told us how the agency’s open approach was fundamental in retaining the BA account, when forming a joint venture with CRM specialists 7 Seconds in 2014.

Of special interest within the agency was Black Sheep Studios, the digital production unit. We viewed an impressive new Audi spot produced 100 per cent as CGI and were told how it will deliver work that is ‘faster, cheaper, better’. I always thought you could only have two of these, but perhaps that’s the real challenge facing large agency networks today – many clients demand all three. Certainly you’d expect that one of the agency’s most recent major account wins, Tesco, might do so.

A retailer in turmoil and an agency in the midst of transformation may not sound like the ideal partnership, and many will be watching to see if BBH can once again confound the sceptics.

Global villages

One of the most compelling cases of transformation was presented by Havas who presented the initial results of its #havastogether strategy and told us how its coming together is taking place through the Havas Village concept.

Havas hopes that by bringing together its creative and media offerings along with a portfolio of other diverse services for tech, data, content and mobile, it will meet a currently unmet need from brands.

This case has some undeniable logic behind it and was aided by the presentation from a united front from the agency’s leaders. Tangible proof of commitment to a new agency structure was given when we heard about the new Havas Village construction in Kings Cross – a new model agency literally being built from the ground up.

Perhaps Havas Group’s size relative to other networks means it can be more nimble when redefining itself, but what’s for sure is that there is a real recognition amongst these lighthouse companies that a new direction is very much needed.

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