Syndicate Gives Ogilvy First Dibs

Although the seven creative boutiques allying with Ogilvy & Mather last week all vowed to remain independent, it is understood that Ogilvy will have first-look rights should any of them decide to sell.
Ogilvy & Mather North America’s newest entity, dubbed the Syndicate, will create a secondary network of partnerships with seven independent shops from across the country. It marks the latest in a series of moves by large multinationals to prove they can be as flexible as hot creative shops.
The unusual arrangement, spearheaded by Ogilvy North America president Tro Piliguian and chief creative officer Rick Boyko, gives the network access to alternate sources of creativity for its global client base. The smaller shops–which have billings in the $25-40 million range–gain the opportunity to work on big brands such as IBM, American Express and Ford.
All the participating shops said they wanted to remain independent, rather than use their new link to sell down the road.
No equity will be exchanged and the agencies will be compensated on a “pay-as-you-go” fee basis. Although the shops will not be restricted from pursuing other freelance opportunities, there is an underlying agreement of exclusivity. The participating shops are Core in St. Louis; Grant, Scott & Hurley in San Francisco; Hunt Adkins in Minneapolis, Pyro in Dallas; VitroRobertson in San Diego; WongDoody in Seattle; and Work in Richmond, Va. Ogilvy already has freelance links with some of the shops.
John Vitro, a partner at VitroRobertson, said mutual respect between the partners allows for this “leap of faith. We will feel our way through” any potential conflicts.
“We’ve raised the level of the creative product throughout the Ogilvy network, which allows us to do the Syndicate from a position of strength,” said Piliguian.
Boyko, Ogilvy in New York’s co-president, will serve as point man for the Syndicate, whose members will present and produce their own work. The shops will also have access to Ogilvy’s media and below-the-line capabilities, increasingly vital services to clients seeking integrated marketing ideas.
Boyko, eager to head off controversy within his own ranks, stressed the arrangement was a complementary one. “We have to demonstrate to our own staff that this is not a threat,” he said.