In April this year, Ford India shifted its headquarters from Chennai to the National Capital Region. Simultaneously, to partner Ford India in its new agenda, WPP established Global Team Ford – a consortium of three independent agencies – JWT, Mindshare and Wunderman co-existing under one roof next door to Ford Marketing, in Gurgaon. Although new in India, it’s not entirely without precedent. It follows the model of Team Detroit in the US, the Blue Hive in Europe and Global Team Ford in Shanghai, all WPP-created agency consortia providing marketing solutions to Ford in different markets.
“Once a business operation is aligned in its thinking internally, it can confidently entrust a similar integrated mandate to its external communication partners,” says Nigel Wark, executive director, marketing, sales and service, Ford India. Global Team Ford, being just a few months old, still runs its financials through three operating units but will look to consolidate the agency as one profit centre. Says Hari Krishnan, senior VP and head, Global Team Ford, “The roadmap is to create a successful model that can be replicated across other brands.” While fresh recruits have been hired by all three operating agencies, Global Team Ford still has its umbilical cord attached to three operating parent companies to maintain movement of staff and cross-fertilisation of ideas and practices.
While Global Team Ford is an extension of what WPP offers to its largest global client in other important markets too, its launch in India raises one question – how is this full-service agency model better than the new-age specialised silos and what’s in it for the clients?
1. While “it being a cheaper model” is the most obvious reason for clients to take this path, Krishnan insists that costs actually play a very minor role. “At times, almost 40% of a brand manager’s time goes into managing various agencies. Mature clients are increasingly looking to touch their consumers at every available opportunity, without having to engage yet another ‘specialised’ partner who will need to be briefed, co-ordinated and integrated with the rest of the team,” he adds.
2. The communication world has become increasingly complex and clients are showing signs of fatigue while dealing with a multitude of ‘specialists’, who are only driven by the excellence of their particular vertical and follow independent organisational agendas. “There is a larger realisation amongst clients that a team which is immersed in business reality and understands the value of every bit of resource that is put behind promoting a brand will be able to come up with an idea that works better than five different entities saying my idea is better,” says Krishnan. There is an increased dependence on agencies that have the resources and abilities to integrate at the idea stage and not just at the execution stage.
3. An ‘agency consortium’ mostly works for agencies belonging to the same parent group. The trick really lies in making sure that each of the specialisations is a master in its domain and is able to work collectively to give a single solution to the client. “Most agencies tend to think putting up a name plate provides the solution but that is not true,” says Ashish Bhasin, chairman India and CEO, SE Asia, Aegis Group.
4. By planning and creating together, agencies and clients can avoid duplicity of efforts in different disciplines. Single source of ideation and execution gives clients common metrics to evaluate all of them together and gives them larger closures.
5. It’s a win-win for agencies too. As per Bhasin, “If the agencies are able to deliver this, then it will be a huge advantage because the lock-in with the client increases significantly and the client starts valuing the agency beyond just rates. This prevents the commoditisation of agency product.”
Managing egos at legacy agencies is the difficult part. “Agencies that have been operating for decades in a certain manner will find making this model work very challenging,” he quips.
What it means for…
- More value for money
- Single solution under one roof
- Prevents duplicity
- Frees up staff from co-ordination and integration worries
- Comprehensive evaluation of marketing efforts
- Lock-in with the client increases significantly
- Promotes cross-fertilisation of ideas
- Encourages innovation