Industry should learn from Dell's latest move

Before last week, it was entirely possible that Dell would scrap its quest to combine all of its marketing disciplines under one holding company-created agency if it found the revolutionary idea untenable.

Before last week, it was entirely possible that Dell would scrap its quest to combine all of its marketing disciplines under one holding company-created agency if it found the revolutionary idea untenable. After all, the marketing communications landscape is fraught with Frankenstein agencies that didn't fit.

But Dell did eventually select WPP, and the industry will spend the early part of 2008 speculating on how the holding company, which seeks to hire 1,000 people to staff "Da Vinci," and Dell will make it work.

In theory, even the most cynical marketer should be able to understand the benefits of such a partnership for companies and firms. When a company has so many different agencies - Dell claims it had 860 - it may get that many different answers to the question of what its message should be. One firm could offer one unified voice. Of course, that could also lead to the negative trend of group-think.

Additionally, the agency search process is broken, where new CMOs clean house solely to put an imprint on the company, and incumbent agencies may have to spend five figures to defend an account while clients claim they're happy with the work and it's "theirs to lose." Of course, it is in firms' inherent nature to constantly seek new business. The best place to find that is in auxiliary businesses of existing clients.

But while the agency-client relationship is in need of ointment, Da Vinci is not the only potential salve. Better direction from clients, who are regrettably dealing with their own marketing discipline squabbles, would help to alleviate the fights and pressure.

Dell's marketing VP Casey Jones told PRWeek that its agencies (now agency) should be aligned in one goal: "Shareholder value for Dell." If Da Vinci succeeds in a tangible way, Fortune 500 companies could adopt Dell's cry for responsibility to shareholder value.

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