Small Agencies Try Teamwork

The struggle for new business on all levels of the industry has led to a spirit of cooperation among some small agencies, which have formed alliances in an effort to broaden their offerings.

DiBona, Bornstein & Random in Boston last week finalized alliances with Hispanic agencies al Punto Advertising in Tustin, Calif., and The Viva Partnership in Miami; African-American shop E. Morris Communications in Chicago; and Asian agency Toto Group in New York. Creaxion in Atlanta also formed a partnership last week, with Atlanta Hispanic shop the Lanza Group, to help clients with Hispanic marketing efforts, said Creaxion CEO Mark Pettit.

“[Partnering] is something people have done [previously], but not as much as now,” said Laurie Mikes, chief operating officer at Second Wind, a Wyomissing, Pa., consultancy for small to midsize shops, which estimated its member agencies shared $18 million in services last year. “The agency climate has been tough—they know they can’t do it all themselves in all areas.”

DBR formed its partnerships through ICOM, a Colorado-based agency network that sets compensation and revenue-sharing guidelines for shops sharing services. “There’s one agency per market,” said Gary Burandt, ICOM executive director. “If [it wasn’t] that way, they wouldn’t share information freely.”

The partnerships do not involve equity or ownership changing hands, only shared services. For the DBR deal, shops signed confidentiality agreements, said Linda Gonzalez, principal at Viva. Those agreements include directives not to share proprietary client or agency information. DBR president Stanley Bornstein said the agencies will work together on new business and with existing clients who need to reach multicultural consumers.