Over on AdAge, there is a raging discussion about the frenemy relationship that takes place between multicultural shops and general market agencies. Does no one get along with the GMs? Digital shops don’t. Production houses have some issues. Who else? General market agencies are the big bois in the game, which means, yes, they will totally put their nut sack in your face and be like, “What? You need me!”
From the article written by Alberto J. Ferrer: “Not only is it often required to work with general-market agencies on client assignments, but it is often asked by clients to share strategies, insights, learning, tools, assets, research, etc., with the general-market shop on the account. This is the same shop that will later turn around and try to take that very account (or at least other accounts for which the multicultural shop is vying).”
Ugh. I highly suggest you read the entire piece here. Anyone who has ever worked in advertising knows what Ferrer is describing is standard practice. Yet, what’s most interesting is the comments section, which is rife with calls for the multicultural agencies to stand up for the rights. There is an overall feeling that these shops have let the GMs walk all over them and they’ve got a point. I’ve been in more than one pitch where the multicultural agency fails to make a contract of terms BEFORE the actual meeting leaving themselves open to total annihilation by the frenemy once the account has been landed. How many times are we all going to say it? Things need to change all over this ad business of ours.
There are battlegrounds where the multicultural shops could be gaining yards – experiential and digital. These fields require a heavy expertise and a “boots on the ground” sort of approach. Still, no one seems to be making a motion to own these two spaces. I went to a party held by a GM agency for city-based, young Blacks otherwise known as Blipsters. Let me tell you that none of us had a good time. The music was way wrong. The event design was stereotyped to an inch of its life. The goodie bag was off message. Everyone bailed long before closing time. The client easily wasted a couple of hundred thousand dollars on that big ass venue, drinks, musicians, etc.
As for digital, this is still a new arena, the wild west of advertising and especially, when it comes to speaking to multicultural audiences of all kinds – Asian, Arab, African, etc. All it would take is for these shops to dedicate the time and effort in hiring some of the best in the digital business – refocusing their efforts on the future of multicultural digital advertising. Sure, it’ll cost you for the bodies, but how can they afford to turn their backs on a wide open playing field?
They have a very strong case if they get it right -” we know that you, the CMO, are well aware that your GM agency is still figuring out the digital landscape. How can they even begin to look at niches – especially those as varied as say the Black population in America? You’ve got Caribbean Blacks, Blipsters, Suburban Blacks, African Blacks… Let’s not even get into Asians. Let’s not even get into the nuances of how the populations flow and interact with the majority race of this country online. Who you gonna call? Who are you going to trust?”
Can’t wait to see which multicultural shop is going to figure this out and get those GM balls out of the picture. And before you balk, say it can’t be done, remember that not too long ago Naked Communications became the lead on the Kimberly Clark account. They are dictating strategy to GM agencies like JWT. Anything can happen.