Holding-company synergy buoys digital initiatives

As clients embrace digital marketing initiatives, digital practice groups are working with other organizations within holding companies to cross-pollinate expertise and define the scope of work.

As clients embrace digital marketing initiatives, digital practice groups are working with other organizations within holding companies to cross-pollinate expertise and define the scope of work.

Last September, WPP launched Deliver, an internal digital resources center, to enable sister firms to tap “the right tool for the right need,” says Rachelle Spero, EVP of digital at WPP agency Cohn & Wolfe.

“Our digital practice is 25 people. When [we can] tap into 2,500 people around the globe...it gives us reach, insights, and access,” she adds.

For Playtex, Deliver works on creative strategy with sister ad agency Grey. For another client, it works with digital partner Visible Technologies to monitor blog communities, and online audio and video.

Spero says the digital team has been working with the sister companies to consolidate work and especially to “define roles, responsibilities, operations, and guidelines.”

“Agencies were going to [their] clients saying they do... a lot of the same things,” she notes. “When you have an interactive, research, PR, and advertising agency saying, ‘We do monitoring, outreach, [and] community building,' you start to say, ‘What's the difference?'”

Brad McCormick, EVP of US digital communications at Omnicom agency Porter Novelli, says, “The boundaries online between PR, advertising, and marketing are blending tremendously.”

As a result, he adds, PN has been working with other Omnicom agencies, as well as partnering with independent start-ups – part of a new, formal practice called PN Labs – to provide clients with the “latest cutting-edge social media and digital” practices and distinguish who does what from a social media standpoint.

“There's growing sophistication on the part of the agencies,” notes McCormick. “Clients are [also] recognizing they have to change the way they do business. [We're] synergizing digital talent.”

As part of P&G's new Brand Agency Leader structure, which brings the company's agencies together to work on various projects, the digital group at PN is working closely with Omnicom ad agency BBDO on the Gillette account. The ad agency is acting as the overall brand guardian. The PN digital PR team is tasked with identifying conversation starters for the product, and Proximity, a BBDO interactive group, is maintaining the Web site Gillette.com.

At Weber Shandwick, Chris Perry, EVP of digital strategy and operations, works across IPG. He says it's important to offer clients a network of resources that's customizable.

“Interacting within holding companies speaks to a more strategic approach, especially in digital,” he notes. “It's such an emerging medium and can mean different things to different people.”

The digital practice has included IPG Labs – a resource for testing emerging media – in strategic planning meetings when “immersing clients into new media.”
“[Clients] need to know how to ply new practices to be effective there,” he adds. “That environment is important to emotionally engage clients in the space.”

Key points:

Working with holding company partners enables the digital PR team to define its role

A digital resources center helps PR agencies provide clients with customizable options

A digital network can be more economical for clients than outsourcing

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