February 7, 2023

'Rebel alliance': the battle for the new agency model

Written By: Zaid Al-Zaidy - The Beyond Collective

By Zaid Al-Zaidy, group chief executive of The Beyond Collective. First published in Campaign, February 7, 2023. Read original article here

Barely a week goes by without an article or podcast about agency models. In-housing, outsourcing, global versus local, the rise of the consultants...

But amongst all of this, a new contender is emerging: the global independent media network, offering a serious alternative to clients with a global footprint.

In the few months alone, PMG picked up the prestigious Nike account in the US, while groups like MSQ are eying up expansion in the US to actively target fast growing clients. In the UK, meanwhile, Brainlabs has scooped Estée Lauder's media business (from Manning Gottlieb OMD).

It begs the question: is the traditional holding company media giant no longer the default choice? Media indies have come together in a "rebel alliance" to offer clients a new way to scale internationally, without the silos and frictions apparent in the conventional holding company model. And it's a model that is starting to gain traction.

Over the past 30 years, holding companies have grown their global networks by acquiring local market players and integrating them into the machine.

Local outposts often become nothing more than stormtroopers: boots on the ground, executing orders, ruthlessly efficient when it comes to budget, but lacking purpose, passion or personality.

For a new breed of global innovators and scale-up businesses, effectiveness is much more important. They recognise that local knowledge and insight, agility and neutrality in media trading, and creativity are the drivers that will accelerate their brand growth. They need fewer "stormtroopers", and more "freedom fighters" working on their accounts. They are looking for agencies with passion, and a hunger to succeed for their clients. They need agencies that can help them disrupt the market leaders through innovative approaches to media, and find new ways to deliver disproportionate impact with their challenger brand budgets. That is why they are increasingly turning to media independent networks to help them scale globally.

In a world where clients have in-house capabilities, and multiple agencies, collaboration is the new marketing currency.

We recently joined media independent network Worldwide Partners, which was founded on the premise that collaboration drives growth for clients and agencies, whereas holding companies were founded on the idea that acquisition drives growth for shareholders.

Of course, holding companies can deliver scale and diverse skills sets, but diversification alone doesn't translate to the integration and agility clients are demanding. Today, great marketing gets developed from the market, not for the market. And it's clear that clients now expect their partners to come together behind their needs, not the needs of the network.

And in a world where brands want to scale faster and need to be more adaptable, clients need access to top talent working on their businesses. Only then do you get creative problem-solving without layers. One version of the truth, scrutinised by great people who have been there and done it. A laser focus on their growth. We give them all that.

At face value this is easy to buy – but what are the implications of this for brands looking to scale globally through media?

Global strategy and co-ordination is still important, but local agency teams must be empowered to make the right media choices at a country level, with a full appreciation for the local consumer and all their nuances. Media must be planned and bought at a local level, free from the constraints of share deals and bulk-buys.

It's all about the disruption mindset. We are innovators and disruptors in our own sector, and that makes us able to help growth businesses disrupt in their own categories. Why would a disruptive company choose to emulate the marketing and media strategies of the very incumbents they seek to dislodge?

At the end of the day, it comes down to hunger. Independents aren't global giants, answering to shareholders. We answer to our clients. If they win, we win.

Written By: Zaid Al-Zaidy - The Beyond Collective