Unlimited Group, the owner of TMW Unlimited, has launched an in-housing offering in response to the traditional agency model not being "fit for purpose".
It is the first major move by Michael Richards, the former VCCP international managing director, who joined as Unlimited’s group chief executive seven months ago.
The new offering, called Unlimited+, will enable clients to second agency staff to their internal teams. Unlimited has 750 employees based in its Soho headquarters, with agencies including TMW Unlimited (customer engagement), Splendid Unlimited (digital transformation) and Nelson Bostock Unlimited (business-to-business and tech).
Richards said: "Because clients are having to react to things real time, the traditional agency process isn’t fit for purpose. In the past, the agency would respond to a client brief in five days, but now you’ve got five seconds to change a social media post.
"We need to be set up to manage that kind of real-time requirement. Digital pressure has changed timeframes. We need to reflect that in how we deliver for clients."
Unlimited+ will focus on three core services: creating infrastructure and upskilling people for digital services; providing exclusive creative and strategy teams; and in-house content production.
Richards explained that the offering is a formalisation of a move towards in-housing that the company has been doing for several years to varying degrees.
For Sony Mobile, Unlimited provided in-house creative and strategy teams for the brand’s last three major handset launches. Meanwhile, there are currently 25 Unlimited staff working in Canary Wharf for HSBC, who are "delivering heavy-duty digital transformation to deliver their open banking app", Richards added.
When asked how Unlimited could retain agency independence and not fall into the trap of sycophancy when working in-house for clients, Richards pointed to Catalyst, a planning process that combines data and neuroscience to create a standardised methodology.
He said: "[Catalyst] keeps us honest. We empower our teams with a methodology that keeps them working as agency people should work, instead of a Mac monkey who happens to work for a bank."