What Kind Of Music Will Chevy's New Agency Arrangement Play?

Forrester applauds GM, Goodby, and McCann for breaking ground to create a new genre of agency orchestration.

Last week's announcement of Chevrolet's new global creative agency Commonwealth, a joint venture between Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and IPG's McCann Erickson Worldwide, is further evidence that the complexity of managing a global brand demands marketers and agencies to work together in new ways.

Despite being created primarily out of financial necessity — to cut more than $2 billion in global marketing expenses — CMO Joel Ewanick and agency leaders at Goodby and McCann arrived at an innovative solution to improve the brand's global creative stewardship. Less-committed CMOs might've given up on the idea that they could get their two most important creative agencies, from different holding companies, to work together. And lesser agencies might have folded up the tent and retreated to greener pastures, before sharing brand strategy and creative duties. But they didn't. They stared a cold financial reality in the eye, apparently over a hot coffee at a shop named Commonwealth.

So what kind of music will Commonwealth be playing for Chevy?

In a recent Forrester report, which you can preview on Advertising Age's CMO Strategy section, I suggested three innovative ways for CMOs to rethink how they partner with agencies, all of which are being played out in the automotive sector.

The Broadway Producer Model

In this model, marketers want the control of using a lead agency, but to make it work, they must play a more active role in agency orchestration. Like a Broadway producer, marketers must be highly committed to the project and have an artistic vision for the brand in order to succeed. We see that happening at Hyundai, which now relies on its company-owned agency Innocean, and Jaguar, which is claiming more control over its creative strategy and execution when it recently launched Spark44.

The Jazz Improvisation Model

In this model, the marketer assembles a team of agencies and lets them arrive at the best solution by performing together to create new rhythms, harmonies, and riffs. When Ford Motor and WPP created Team Detroit, by co-locating teams from JWT, Y&R, Ogilvy, Wunderman, Mindshare, and others to Detroit, they were essentially setting the stage for agency improvisation. And now Ford Motor and WPP are creating a new jazz ensemble, as they set a new stage for the Lincoln brand in New York City.

The Empowered Orchestra Model

In this model, marketers empower their agencies to play two distinct leadership roles: the composer (idea agency) and conductor (orchestrator agency). The conductor role may be filled by a dedicated-conductor agency or a rotating group of guest-conductor agencies. Mercedes-Benz USA has kept its brand's creative strategy in the hands of long-time composer-partner Merkley & Partners, while establishing the role of digital conductor for Razorfish in 2009.

So, is Commonwealth a jazz improv model, where Goodby and McCann pull off jam sessions together? Or is it an empowered orchestra model where someone plays chief composer, while others get the creative latitude to interpret those compositions as the conductor?

We'll be waiting to hear what they come up with. And we hope it's worth a standing ovation.

What kind of arrangement do you think Commonwealth is?