Is Marc Pritchard right to say that agencies should strip away anything that doesn't add to creative output?

Procter & Gamble's chief brand officer told the ANA conference in Florida that its time to "disrupt this archaic 'Mad Men' model, eliminating the siloes between creatives, clients and consumers, and stripping away anything that doesn't add to creative output."

Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer, P&G
Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer, P&G

The marketing boss of the world’s largest advertiser also said it was time for media and creative to be reunited.

Pritchard will also speak at the ISBA Conference in London tomorrow (Tuesday 6 March).

The FMCG giant has long talked about changing the way its works with agencies. It has reduced the number of agencies it works with globally by about 60%, to 2,500, and plans to halve this number again.

Pritchard detailed in his ANA speech how P&G is making fewer ads, and slashing wasted media spend.

He also made a case for media and creative teams working together under one roof, pointing to UK Pampers agencies Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis Media "co-locating to create magic".

But the most potentially alarming section of his speech, for many in the agency world, is likely to be where he outlined his vision for P&G’s relationship with creative agencies.

"We want and need brilliant creatives, and we will invest in creative talent," Pritchard said. "But creatives represent less than half of agency resources, because they’re surrounded by excess management, buildings and overhead."

Is he being unfair to account management teams – or is he right?

Andy Nairn

Founding partner, Lucky Generals

There’s a lot to praise in Marc Pritchard’s speech: a focus on transparency, creativity and disruption, for starters.  The assault on unnecessary meetings, PowerPoints and offsites will also be greeted with cheers from agencies.  And we’re all experimenting with different ways of working, aren’t we?  I do have some quibbles though.  In particular, you won’t be surprised that I think he’s wrong to imply that "creatives" are the only people developing great work within agencies!  And even if he were right, I doubt the very best creatives will flock to work at companies like P&G or that they’d find the culture less bureaucratic there.   Stripping away the "Mad Men" structures is a great idea but some of the craziest siloes are still client-side.

Zoe Harris

Group marketing director, Trinity Mirror

Agencies should strip away anything that's not adding significant and tangible value. For that to be effective, there is a fundamental need for change client-side as well as agency side, and it feels that our industry as a whole has got itself into a bit of pickle. As a marketer I'm hugely excited by the idea of replacing project managers with brand entrepreneurs in marketing functions. Who wouldn't want that job - a chance to put creativity and ideas at the heart of what we all do?

Zaid Al-Zaidy

Chief executive, Above & Beyond

What Marc says is hard to disagree with. The best creative agencies I have ever worked in make great creativity (and better margins all round) by taking out the superfluous "middle men" and by fielding a team of multi-talented hybrids able to balance operational, strategic and creative challenges. In today’s mega-fluid world, this has to be a win-win for both clients and their agencies. And while it’s faster, more fun and more effective, it also demands a client who is up for the ride.

Cathy McPherson 

Client success director, The Specialist Works

The cumbersome world of advertising is nearing an end as visionaries like Marc Pritchard discover that it is possible to cut through the complexity and disrupt historic, failing models. Advertising is undergoing massive transition. It isn’t about stripping away dead wood to get back to creativity but turning the model on its head and starting afresh with client-first methodology. This is achieved more easily by agile agencies that are unshackled from history. Independence and transparency facilitate client first thinking. That means precise targeting and real-time optimisation, and more time to push the boundaries of innovation while delivering the results.

Matt Charlton

Chief executive, Brothers and Sisters

I totally agree. The process of creating work has become over managed and over populated. But agencies usually only reflect their clients. People go into advertising to make great work and the common complaint is it has never been more draining to achieve this. And people leave the industry as a result. If you have an organisation that struggles to make clear decisions, sees going around in circles as all part of a day’s work and can’t manage senior stakeholders then the agency will reflect this accordingly. It’s up to the client to define what type of organisation an agency has to reflect, and they will. P&G are disrupting themselves and the agencies will follow.

Matthew Heath

Chairman, Lida

Marc Pritchard has a powerful point. The reinvention of advertising, powered by data and analytics to build relevance, is only just beginning. And agencies need to shape up to deliver in this new world. I would quibble though with his observation that "creatives represent less than half of agency resources". We need to think again about what defines "creative" in the modern agency. For us it is not only about writers and art directions, it is about brilliant data science and the kind of strategists who are curious to see what happens if they fuse together different insight from difference sources. To thrive we have to do something our clients cannot. And that is to provide creativity in a new way.