Recently presented to 15 marketing agencies at a CLOSE meeting in San Francisco.

CLOSE meetings are for Omnicom agencies and this particular meeting had about 15 different agencies in attendance.

The purpose of CLOSE meetings is to give each of these agencies the opportunity to share ideas, successes, challenges – all with the goal of better collaboration and improving the chances of Omnicom as a company, winning business.


In theory this is a good concept.

When Omnicom (and other holding companies) first started buying up agencies, their objective was to acquire the best in class breed of agencies across a variety of different discipline.  Having specialists in specific areas of marketing, media, advertising, would enable them to own platforms and deliver at superior levels no matter what the client.

Two things have occurred that have caused this strategy to break down:

  1. Fewer marketers means more competition.  With all the corporate consolidation, there are fewer opportunities for agencies to win new business.  This puts pressure on them (especially publicly traded agencies) to seek out business in areas/companies that they normally would not look (smaller companies, new sectors).
  2. With the growing demands for fuller integration, agencies of all ilk are trying to be everything to everyone.  Marketers tell us in our surveys that they believe digital-only agencies won’t survive long-term unless they are able to operate more effectively in traditional spaces – which turns them into something other than a digital-only agency.

What has happened across the universe of agencies is the differences that once existed are now blurring.  The Omnicom agencies said it themselves:  “We’re All Starting to Look Like Each Other”.  A sentiment that was echoed more than one time during my short visit to the group.

So What Does this All Mean to You, the Marketer?

Means you need to do your homework when you’re looking for a new firm.

You’ve got to understand what they were when they started and how did they get their expertise built up in specific areas (e.g. digital, media, etc.)

You’ve got to be able to not just compare available offerings, but you need to dive deeper, earlier to understand the agency’s thinking, problem solving skills, and experience dealing with problems and challenges similar to yours.

If you don’t dig this deep, you’ll end up just turning it into a beauty contest and you’ll make decisions based on things less relevant to your business.

Peel it back, dig a little deeper, and give it all a good look.  There is more there than a bunch of agencies all looking alike.