Campaign@Cannes Blog: The chink in the holding company armour

Takeaways from the Deutsch LA session, and India-spotting on Day 2 of Cannes Lions 2012

Jun 19, 2012 01:22:00 PM | Article | Arati Rao

Mike Sheldon, chief executive officer of Deutsch LA, had a hard-hitting (and funny) way of introducing the theme of his agency’s seminar ‘Ending the agency talent ‘rotisserie’’. He introduced Deutsch LA’s most recent famous work, ‘The Force’ for Volkswagen, and said that the campaign was a big winner for the agency. Such a big winner, in fact, that the copywriter who wrote the ad was poached from the agency within a month.

Kim Getty, partner and director of account management at Deutsch LA, then spoke about 40 interviews the agency had done, to assess the attitude of people who worked for them. 42 per cent said they just fell into advertising, 50 per cent thought they could just as easily fit in somewhere else, and 24 per cent, a sizeable number, didn’t agree that they loved advertising.

Reiterating that true competition for an agency’s creative talent isn’t other agencies, but technology and web companies, Getty said the lure was actually the promise of the start-up world. Today, when all one needs to succeed is a cool idea, advertising agencies operate in too tight a structure, she reasoned.

While it is perceived that people want better compensation, managers, and growth opportunities, Deutsch LA feels what they really want is responsibility, recognition, and independence.

The agency advocated an interesting line – Don’t become your holding company (Deutsch LA is owned by IPG). Advertising is fundamentally a boutique business, and ad agency people don’t want to feel like cogs in the wheel: they actually crave independence.

Considering the independent agency wave in India, this could be an important point to note. It isn’t the toughest thing to break out of the confines of the network agency these days, and there’s inspiration to be found in success stories like Taproot and Creativeland Asia in recent times. Perhaps there’s something to the idea of teams like the one that works on Ford that is a collaboration between JWT, Mindshare and Wunderman, that could work as mini full service agencies and give people greater control (and all-round understanding of their brands). Or there’s something in leaner team structures, as Sheldon and Getty said, to allow greater ownership of work (and that is something reflected in leaner credit lists as well which helps zero in on who actually came up with the idea and who created the work).

Or then, there’s the idea of units like Kraft Latin America’s Project Fly experiment that brings together marketers of the company and collaborators from different fields.

For agencies that are all about creating innovation, doesn’t the innovation really need to start with the way they function?

India-spotting by Shephali Bhatt at Cannes Lions 2012:

Day two started on a rather merry note courtesy Kartik Iyer of Happy Creative Services. Iyer mentioned how he managed to get his client Flipkart to attend Cannes this time. Bravo to that! He also introduced me to his partner, Praveen Das. Saw Bates’ Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar getting into the seminar hall. A quick hello and he went right into the auditorium. Thereafter, I quickly cantered down the stairs of the Palais to head for IPG Mediabrands’ round table. Met Ajay Kakar (Aditya Birla Group) on the way, who was also going for the same conference. This time, he actually gave me business cards of a few places that offer decent vegetarian food. Kind! At the IPG Mediabrands Villa, I met HUL’s Rahul Welde for the first time. Exchanged cards with Vivek Nayer of Mahindra after a small chit-chat with Lodestar UM’s Shashi Sinha, who was playing host at the conference. Returned to the Palais along with Kakar in a tuk-tuk, which was an amazing ride to say the least. Spotted Euro RSCG’s Satbir Singh and Ogilvy Gurgaon’s Ajay Gahlaut outside the Young Lions section, while I was throttling my way to attend Droga 5’s master class. Met Taproot’s Aggie and Paddy along the way. Waved at BBDO’s Josy Paul who was dressed in saffron hues. Caught up with him for two minutes when Publicis’ Ashish Khazanchi entered the Palais. A hello to him and I was out of the venue. Have been missing the action at the ever popular Gutter Bar for the last two days. Will make it there this evening, hopefully!