General Mills’ Pollard rows back on hard line with promise of agency rewards

British former agency exec Ivan Pollard found himself in hot water a while back in his latest role as CMO of General Mills, being accused of cutting agency fees, demanding free pitches and pinching intellectual property.

Well he’s a former media man, one of the partners at clever media agency Naked and these guys all like a deal don’t they?

Anyway Pollard has shown up at Advertising Week in New York, alongside old mucker at Naked Jon Wilkins, now executive chairman of Accenture’s Karmarama. With a mea culpa of sorts.

Pollard said of agencies: “The primary need for clients is to help us find those big breakthrough ideas that we can turn into beautiful stories and find those really good insights we can turn into creative solutions that affect and change people’s behaviours and beliefs.”

Agencies need to “win back more of my trust, admiration and money … if they are making money and being rewarded it’s because I’m making money.”

He went on to say that he wanted agencies to make “lots of money” in part by going back to what they used to, taking a cut (somehow or other) of advertiser profits.

Pollard should know of course (he also worked at Coca-Cola and Wieden+Kennedy) but did agencies ever actually do this?

In the full service era they were rewarded by media commissions of between ten and 15 per cent so to a significant degree they did profit from the success of clients: the same TV campaign (for example) might run for two years or more with the agency trousering the same generous commission for doing not that much.

But agency folk themselves drove a coach and horses through this comfort zone as some of the broke away to form media agencies, others production companies – thereby fragmenting the commission system and also putting an end to the swag from production mark-ups.

Clients had to get wise to some of these wheezes eventually.

It would be interesting to hear in more detail from Pollard how he sees his new model working.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.