The future of the agency model in a post-Sorrell era
Sir Martin Sorrell was in his element, standing in front of investors in a London hotel in June 2017, at what would turn out to be his final annual WPP shareholder meeting, explaining how his strategy of "horizontality" was working for his biggest client, Ford.
"Power of One" is convincing only if brands buy into it, however. Publicis Groupe suffered a blow in April when Asda, which had moved its creative and media to Saatchi & Saatchi and sister agency Blue 449 simultaneously in 2016, dropped Saatchis in favour of Omnicom's Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.
Nonetheless, the agency holding company model was likely to change, even before Sorrell's shock exit. Havas last year became part of Vivendi, the music and TV giant, and its top shareholder Vincent Bolloré could lead further consolidation, although he is facing a corruption investigation.
Ultimately, the future success of the agency business depends on people. Some agency leaders believe it is possible for holding companies to put together teams under "a flag of convenience" and treat key people "like Premier League players who move around between franchises".
Changes it has made Omnicom emerged as a leader in data-driven media planning and buying with its latest network Hearts & Science, though the agency is yet to take root globally. Its DDB-led, but group-organised, approach to winning McDonald's US creative business in 2016 showed the benefits of collaboration – something it has encouraged with its new multi-agency offices in London's Southwark.
Changes it has made The group's much-vaunted "Power of One" strategy, introduced in 2015 along with a major restructure, marked the beginning of a period of reform, including the appointment of a youthful new leader in Arthur Sadoun. Agencies have been moving into shared abodes, and its AI-powered in-house assistant Marcel promises to take the strategy to the next level.
Changes it has made Chief executive Michael Roth believes IPG has led where rivals have followed in terms of restructuring, having launched "open architecture" more than a decade ago. While agency brands such as McCann and R/GA remain, they must be able to collaborate on a client-by-client basis on briefs that transcend region and discipline. Today, all agencies should have digital competency as part of an integrated offering.
Changes it has made Since the official rebranding of Aegis Media and Dentsu to Dentsu Aegis Network in 2014, all the agency brands must answer to a single P&L in each country. It has incentivised agency leaders, meanwhile, by giving them 50% of their bonus from the performance of their shop and 50% from the group.