The Twisting Path to New Agency Models


Also, according to sources, some offices viewed the digital artists as competitors, not collaborators. One source groused they "parachuted in" on projects, taking too much credit. The group has also been caught in the middle of TBWA's struggles to integrate its existing digital assets, Tequila and, into the network.

"It's always more challenging when you peek under the hood and try to maneuver through the organization," said a source.

While Digital Arts has hopscotched around the globe, plugging into outposts in Berlin, London and Los Angeles, TBWA is now folding its talent into the New York office of TBWA\Chiat\Day, according to Carroll, to address operational issues like billing, and as part of a drive to make digital part of all the agencies rather than a separate silo.

The travails of Digital Arts point to the struggle taking place at many agencies that are trying, by fits and starts, to adjust their models to the digital age. Digitally focused agencies like R/GA and AKQA are adding more traditional brand-building capabilities, while shops like TBWA and BBDO are trying to apply digital to their organizations. Both scenarios face challenges, according to Nelson. That's particularly true in large companies; TBWA has 11,000 employees in 267 offices across 77 countries.

"The expectation is so great to transform a company," said a source, "that they forget that it's tough to make the elephant dance."

See also: "Digital Shops Caught in Transition"