Why don’t single client agencies work?

WPP finally gave up on Enfatico, the agency they set up solely to support Dell and have effectively folded it in to C&W.  Enfatico joins a long list of single client agencies to fail.  Why do these agencies fail when, on the surface at least, they offer such obvious benefits to a client?  Before I get in to the reasons why they fail, let me first list the potential benefits of these firms:

1.  These agencies can REALLY get to understand a client’s business

2.  These agencies are not distracted by other clients or new business

3.  These agencies can hire the team that best suits the client’s challenges

4.  These agencies can easily run a single methodology across the globe

5.  These agencies are easy to measure as there’s only one thing to build the measurement around

So with all these benefits why do they fail?  Here are the reasons:

1.  Staff who work at agencies don’t want to just work on one client forever so you are bound to get high turnover at all levels

2.  One of the key advantages of agencies is that they get to bring fresh perspective and insight BECAUSE they work with multiple clients.  In about a year sole client agencies become stale

3.  Sole client agencies are essentially just an in-house team that has been outsourced.  Why bother?

4.  Sole client agencies only work if the budgets are huge.  Otherwise you have staff on the account that are either underutilized or are forced to work on tasks they’re not ideally suited to, to fill their time.

I think it’s a shame these agencies don’t work as I can see the appeal and like to see innovation in our industry.  So far though the cons always seem to outway the pros.  Enfatico RIP.


PR agencies are obsessed with bullet points

Look at a PR plan from a PR agency and it will have lots of bullet points.  There will be three key messages displayed as bullets.  There will be three or four key strategies displayed as bullets. There will be a dozen tactics displayed as.. you guessed it.  And so it goes on.  Why the obsession with lists and bullets?  In part because it makes it easier for people to read but mainly because.. well that’s how everyone does it.  But why?  Why are we so obsessed with having these lists?  I may be having a senior moment here, if so please just ignore me but I’m starting to believe that PR agencies lack some serious self confidence. Why do I think this?  Well here are some reasons:

1.  We should have the confidence to have a really great creative idea that marries insight with a perfect message and which naturally lends itself to a tightly defined set of tactics and metrics.  In other words we shouldn’t always need some back up, some other idea just in case the first one fails to get the client excited.  In other words there need not be a number 2.  Now I appreciate that software applications like Word and PowerPoint love bullet points or lists but they’d get used to people not pushing that button I’m sure.

Take a look at that PR plan you wrote for 2010 and ask yourself if you really do need all those messages, strategies, tactics and metrics.  If the answer is ‘yes’ then either you wrote a really insightful or really bad plan.


Microsoft, Dell and HP lag while Apple again tops the chart in tech PR

In my recent poll asking who does the worst PR Microsoft got the most votes, closely followed by Dell and HP. Google and IBM fared well but as with my poll on who does the best PR, Apple came out top by receiving no votes. I think this reflects the feeling by many practitioners that Microsoft is something of a PR machine and that it is struggling to throw off its image as a lagging tech brand when compared with the likes of Apple and Google. Equally the HP brand has lost much of its charm now that Mark Hurd (its CEO) has shown that his mantra is all about driving the finances of the business and less about making HP a leader. Dell meanwhile continues to struggle to find a meaningful niche beyond being a place people buy cheap PCs and servers. In short I think the poll reflects the fact that people admire large successful brands BUT they want a certain visible level of positive leadership. This is where Apple and Google clearly score well. Put another way, the measure of who does the worst PR is really no different to who does the best.


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