Debate is healthy

Steve Cody said my recent column "missed the mark" in his blog "RepMan."

I said, among other things:

Publicis and Kekst -...

Steve Cody said my recent column "missed the mark" in his blog "RepMan."

I said, among other things:
Publicis and Kekst - and Cohn & Wolfe and GCI (last week's other big M&A) - realized this when they decided to join together to strengthen their global brands.

There will, of course, always be room for local agencies and niche firms. But the onus is on midsize and large firms to consider how truly "global" their offerings are. Smaller US-focused agencies without the acquisition interest from holding companies or the opportunity to establish a wholly owned network of offices are wise to become active and significant members of international consortiums or partnerships. Clients and prospectives might seem more concerned with digital, CSR, or green today, but the days when every client puts a global footprint at the top of its wish list are coming. Everyone needs to be prepared.

He said, among other things:
The fact is global footprints rarely succeed. We've created one that we believe to be unique, but I'm not here to tout our approach. Rather, Keith needs to know how dissatisfied clients and "prospectives" are with existing global models. Here's why: the holding company model may indeed have "on-the-ground" capabilities in 35 or 40 countries. But, each office has a different specialty. So, if I represent a US chemical company that needs local support in, say, Milan, I'm stuck with the holding company's offering, which probably specializes in fashion.

Global networks of independent PR firms aren't much better, and are really nothing more than pure geographic plays. So, while someone may have vetted the member firm at some point, do I really want to entrust my multinational client relationship to a Sao Paulo agency that happens to be a member of my network?
I think not.

[snip]

I'm sure Keith can show me examples of seamless, global solutions. But, I guarantee I can show him many more examples of smart, a la carte client programs. And, I'd be delighted to share our approach to solving a client's need for a global footprint.

I think Steve makes some good points, but I sort of have to agree with a commenter at his blog: "Ok Repman, let me see if I get this correctly: global footprints don't work except for "unique" global footprints, such as the one created by YOUR agency. In other words Keith's analysis is correct with regard to Peppercom but not to or for anybody else."

Not saying that Steve intended that - or felt that way - but his commentary towards the end validated my core argument - clients (not just those clients with offices in 60 cities) are increasingly thinking globally. And I did say that C&W-GCI, and Publicis-Kekst deals were driven by global concerns (straight from the sources). And when I said - "Clients and prospectives might seem more concerned with digital, CSR, or green today, but the days when every client puts a global footprint at the top of its wish list are coming. Everyone needs to be prepared." - I meant the client's global footprint - i.e. its need for intelligence across the world - will have increased importance.

They will want agencies helping them with that. Whether the agency has one office or offices in every city in the world, they need to prove their ability to get the global landscape. And some agencies will approach that through acquisitions, more partnerships, and other ways to stretch their offerings. Will it succeed? We'll be watching. What do you think?

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