Nissan on why the agency relationship requires a ‘fundamental’ overhaul

Aston Martin inking a deal with WPP to create a bespoke ‘horizontal’ agency team marks the latest car marque to look to a more integrated relationship with its agencies as Nissan calls for the industry to offer a more consistent brand message to customers.

The partnership, signed at Cannes last week, sees WPP given responsibility for Aston Martin’s global advertising account. It will create a team that gives the car manufacturer access to the full range of agencies on offer at WPP and then look for synergies.

The move comes as WPP looks to ramp its global presence, including launching cars into new segments such as SUV.

Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer says: “Growing our brand presence into new markets and segments is critical for the success of our ‘second century’ plan. With WPP we are looking to create a fully integrated marketing communications team capable of successfully driving our brand forward across the globe.”

Aston Martin is not the first car marque to do this. WPP has previously created a full service agency for Ford in Blue Hive.

Nissan has taken a slightly different strategy, launching “Nissan United” as an integration layer between the business and its various agencies to ensure a more coherent strategy.

Speaking to Marketing Week at Cannes, Nissan’s global CMO Roel de Vries said he expects more brands, both in the auto industry and outside, to look to a more integrated relationship with their brands.

Making advertising simpler

He believes the rise of digital created agency specialisation as brands looked to their partners to keep on top of new technology and trends. However as the consumer world becomes “more simple and integrated” due to the growing importance of mobile, brands need to mirror this, he said.

“[The industry] created a model for big clients like us where we had many individual agencies that all specialise in their field but the problem is that the integration became complex.

“On the consumer side the world has become more simple and integrated, if I want something, whatever it is, it’s on my phone. [The marketing industry] went the other way. We have social agencies, digital agencies, PR agencies.

“The issue now is that the customer doesn’t want all that mixed messaging. They want it simple and integrated. We have to work out how to get that integration back.”

Roel de Vries, Nissan’s global CMO

De Vries isn’t advocating a return to the full service agency that can “do anything and everything” but does think brands and agencies need to do more to integrate. He said the creation of Nissan United is just the first step in a process that needs to be “more fundamental”.

“We have to truly go back to having the whole system work for the individual customer,” he said.

Agency relations need to be more than a ‘transaction’

Jacques de Cock, faculty member of the London School of Marketing, says that for brands such as Nissan with huge global advertising budgets a joined-up strategy is “essential”.

“The key element these brands are looking for is a partnership not merely a transaction. That is to say they want an agency that works closely with them and their business units intimately and seamlessly.

“Creating a bespoke, maybe co-owned, advertising and marketing company makes sense. It combines the clear focus and joint team creation potential the client wants with the access to the diversity of skills and ideas of the large agency the client needs for global multichannel programmes,” he explains.

However de Cock warns that for these joint ventures to succeed they have to be more than a “rebranding exercise”.

“To be successful these ‘joint ventures’ should be a full ‘co-makership’ relationship with the clients with limited or no friction and conflict regarding billing and scope as well as a great level of trust.

“Success in the marketplace will depend on these bespoke agencies remaining effectively embedded with the client and the delivery agencies. This is possible but a difficult balancing act to maintain successfully,” he adds.

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