I Respectfully Disagree, Mr. Ziebinski…

Industry news pubs have been touting a recent announcement regarding a new agency model dubbed, Publicis One. Former Leo Burnett President, and newly crowned CEO of Publicis One, Jarek Ziebinski, declared, “I believe that Publicis One is not only the most interesting thing in the group’s restructure, but I think it’s the most interesting thing that’s happening in the whole industry. I believe in three years that this will be the model for the world”.

I like Mr. Ziebinski’s bravado. But what I find so troubling is how pathetic the new Publicis One model actually is. It so many ways it’s a non-event for their clients, and the marketing world at large. If you really boil it down, their new model is a marginally better reporting structure, along with streamlined accounting/attribution rules to improve upon their existing disintegrated model, which everyone agreed was obnoxious, bloated, self-serving and exasperating marketers’ overall distain for large holding companies. Publicis One is about a decade late to the party in regards to recognizing a better way to satisfy their clients’ desires for better collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas. Worse, their new model fails to actually correct other glaring flaws within their big ad agency system.

Publicis One’s model will undoubtedly improve how they operate today, but it won’t significantly improve their clients’ businesses. And it certainly won’t revolutionize the industry. That’s because if you want to affect real change, you must start by correcting real end-user problems. For example, when we blew up our ad agencies and birthed Cult Collective, we did so knowing that a new and improved agency model had to accomplish the following:

· It must reimagine the labor model so clients only pay for talent working directly on their business at a particular time, not fund excessive levels of leadership, multiple tiers of account management, and expensive creative oversight

· It must enable affordable and nimble scalability. Clients should be able to vary their account size in near real time based on their current needs, not the agency’s need for predictable revenue

· It must utilize rapid prototyping and leverage technology and open source platforms instead of depending upon resident manpower and proprietary tools which tend to increase costs and decrease speed to market

· It must eradicate all media commissions to remove any perceived or actual bias towards various paid media channels

· It must leverage highly skilled, multinational talent so as to seamlessly flow services to various cost centers and allow clients to benefit from the most effective and most efficient resources

· It must universally ban all creative awards. Agency talent must be solely motivated to improve their client’s business, not improve their own portfolio or reputation. Any agency boasting about their trophy case should be seen as too self-centered to understand the conflicts of interest they may create by pitching ideas that are better for them than for their client.

· It must shun the (oftentimes unethical) practice of RFP’s and requests for free thinking or spec creative.

· It must abandon the irrational allure of big city headquarters (along with their associated high overhead) and settle in more attractive markets where clients and employees can benefit from lower costs of living and enjoy a more balanced lifestyle.

· It must compliment creative storytelling and beautiful design with marketing strategists who understand the difference between solving real business challenges by actually engaging consumers instead of crafting communication strategies aimed at merely entertaining them.

Mr. Ziebinski, I applaud your efforts to attempt to do something meaningful, but frankly, you failed. You didn’t change nearly enough. You were more loyal to your holding company’s legacy beliefs and systems than you were courageous enough to reimagine every single aspect of how you service clients. Years ago Fast Company wrote a terrific article titled, “The Future of Advertising”. It said, “Like a beetle preserved in amber, the practice of advertising has sat virtually unchanged for the last half-century. [Due to] a combination of Internet disintermediation, recession, and corporate blindness, the ad assembly line has been obliterated. Chief marketing officers don’t know where to turn, but they have little confidence that old-world agencies know how to navigate the chaos.” Given the big deal Publicis One is making about their small changes, seems as though CMO’s skepticism for ad execs to implement meaningful change is justified.

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