Three makes a trend, as they say, and three WPP agencies have announced new “divisions” in recent weeks, aimed at giving clients a reason to work with them other than just buying media or making ads, which provide diminishing returns in the digital era.
Wavemaker’s new Precision offering claims to help clients make their technology work harder and turn data into a strategic asset. Geometry’s Innovation unit will “rapidly develop ideas and initiatives that create financial growth for clients across channels and categories.” And Grey’s Consultancy division is about solving business problems to accelerate growth for clients.
Geometry and Wavemaker, at least, seem to be working with some of their major clients through these new units: Geometry with Cola-Cola and Diageo, and Wavemaker with L’Oreal and British Airways.
It looks like agencies are still having to work hard to carve out a role for themselves, and to persuade clients to work with them on more “upstream” thinking. These new units might also be a way to reinvent the charging model by offering services that are more easily categorised as consultancy, and so can be billed for as brainpower rather than man hours.
With big agencies getting even bigger – witness VMLY&R and Wavemaker’s origins in Maxus and MEC – there’s a need to offer clients an entry point on a smaller, more agile scale as a way to stave off the threat from consultancies, and to stop agency work from being commoditised.
Elspeth Lynn, Geometry ECD says: “Our job is to help our clients innovate and exploit channels, unlock new categories and build new products to drive growth. Innovation, we believe, sits at the core of this.”
It feels like agencies shouldn’t really have to be spelling this out, but if it reassures clients that they have a handle on transformation, then it’s got to be worth a go. If the mergers keep coming, though, creating these divisions can be nothing more than tinkering at the edges.