Is it time to move on from the client-agency tradition?

Moving on from agencies

Last week we were delighted to be a partner for The Marketing Society’s Collide evening discussing the recent trend of agency in-housing and what that means for our industry.

A great and dynamic evening spent debating the various models that clients adopt in delivering their creative needs. 

We were joined by a highly eloquent and strategically chosen panel to discuss the topic at hand: should the client-agency tradition continue or is it time to look at how and why we can do this differently? And for those who are doing it differently how successful are they being? What is proving more effective from a creative, financial and, dare we say, human perspective?

Our moderator, Ashish Banerjee, opened the talk with what may seem at first a very naive question: how’s it really working out for you? And as simple as asking someone "How are you", it had the disarming ability to get the panel to open up very quickly and candidly. 

On one side of the panel sat Emirates NBD with their agency of choice FP7 and on the other sat Jaguar Land Rover with Spark 44, a unique global client/agency joint venture. Between these 2 extremes sat Michelle Walsh, COO of MAF’s Vox cinemas with an internal creative team that sits close to the brand.

It was interesting to see who watched their words more carefully.

Hannah Naji, marketing director, Jaguar Land Rover

The first to be put on the spot, was very quick to highlight the benefits that a dedicated resource gives you, which no other agency has been able to truly fulfill in the past.

She describes the working relationship as solid and enriching, wishing it at times to be more nimble.

Bernardo Jun, managing director, Spark 44

Bernando saw all the challenges as proof of success. He believes that the current JV model allows the agency/client relationship to exist democratically, having one unifying purpose at heart, the better good of the brand; like parents butting heads about the best interests of their child.

This allows Spark44 to question existing briefs, scrutinize every deliverable internally and externally, and push back from a position of authority and not one of servitude.

Michelle Walsh, chief operating officer, VOX Cinemas

Michelle valued having the creative process so close, stating that “there’s something very special about doing it all internally”.

By keeping the magic of the work in the air she felt it positively contributed to the personal relationships within the team and the bond between the individuals and the brand.

Vikram Krishna, executive vice president, Emirates NBD

Vikram dismissed the internal model as unnecessary, believing that having access to an array of resources allowed for the focus needed to truly deliver the best result.

Jon Marchant, managing director, FP7

On the other hand, Jon spoke about the challenges of finding good talent and convincing them to dedicate themselves to one brand is a tough ask, stating that exclusivity is detrimental to the quality of work (and perhaps to the advertising agency).

This leads us to the second point that held main stage: talent and people.

How do we hire the right talent and how do we retain good people?

Hanna’s answer was very clear from the get-go, just hire good people and Bernardo reinforced that, by claiming that like we can reinterpret the brand, people’s roles and responsibilities can also be reinterpreted.

It’s simply about having the will to work for it. 

Michelle spoke about the importance of a healthy and supportive environment and believes this is key for employees to feel happier in their workspace.

She was very mindful of how the existing work structure was affecting the team, enforcing compassion and ensuring people don’t “burn out”.

The panel was very forthcoming with their answers to what seemed to be an endless stream of questions from a very excited audience. A number of topics were brought up ranging from issues of finance to that of professional trust, with many different opinions flying around the room.

And even though we can’t conclusively claim one model as being more successful over another, we can safely say that when we do look to brands for their innovation, banks are not where we go.


By Dalia Fawaz, associate creative director, Siegel+Gale