Against all odds: When agencies (mostly happily) share a client
It was Feb. 2, 2014, and JCPenney’s agency team was getting ready to send out the last tweet for the retailer’s “Tweeting With Mittens” social campaign — a viral play that sent out muddled, typo-riddled tweets as part of the company’s Olympics campaigns that promoted special Team USA mittens.
But there was some disagreement over what that last tweet should actually be. In the room were two teams, one from agency EVB and another from Victors & Spoils. So everyone wrote one idea down. The winner: a tweet written by Victors & Spoils associate creative director Ari Levi, with some input from EVB executive creative director Steve Babcock.
In a nutshell, the winning tweet crystalized the unusual agency relationship between Victors & Spoils and EVB, two agencies that have shared the JCP social and digital media account for almost two years. While inter-agency collaborations within holding companies are common — WPP has long pushed for a “team” approach that brings together staff from multiple agencies in the family — when this particular arrangement came together, EVB was owned by Omnicom (it has since gone indie) and V&S remains majority-owned by Havas.
“There’s no question that agencies usually never want to work with other agencies,” said one creative who preferred not to be named. “I don’t know how they made it happen.” Big marketers like J&J and Kimberly-Clark have tried “team”-based approaches for years, experimenting with agency models where centralized “hubs” work with “global” spokes. Those, however, don’t fall across holding company lines. Back in 1996, in a historic agency move, United divided its account between then-indie Fallon McElligott and Young & Rubicam. A few years later, Fallon flew away with the whole business.
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