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George Parker: Will Any Lessons Be Learned from the Enfatico Disaster?

Late last week, Enfatico effectively ceased to exist as a stand alone operation. The “agency of the future,” sixteen months after its creation,...

George Parker
George Parker on April 14, 2009.

Late last week, Enfatico effectively ceased to exist as a stand alone operation. The “agency of the future,” sixteen months after its creation, became the agency of the past when it was rolled into Y&R. Forgive me for enjoying a brief toot on my horn here, but I’d been forecasting this on AdScam for months, opting for either Grey or Y&R as the likely home for the struggling enterprise. Launched with much fanfare in December 2007, it was claimed this would be the first agency totally dedicated to servicing the advertising needs of single client, Dell, on a global scale. (Actually, Lintas was originally formed to handle Unilever back in the seventies.) It was also claimed that Enfatico would replace the 850 agencies then servicing the account world wide. Considering that when IBM consolidated all its business in Ogilvy some years ago, the client was using no more than 80 agencies to handle a much bigger account with many diverse divisions, that claim smacks of bullshit to me. Perhaps Enfatico was including the shops doing Dell’s Yellow Pages ads in Timbuktu and Kabul.

I thought this was a dumb idea from the get-go. Creating what is basically an in-house agency to handle one client means that any semblance of objectivity in the relationship and work is impossible. When you disagree with the only client paying the bills, you can’t tell them to go fuck themselves if you happen to get in an argument ‘cos they want to make the logo bigger. You also have a near impossible task finding non-hacks prepared to work in a one account agency. This has been borne out by the dismal quality of the only two visible results of sixteen months work: a rather average campaign for the Indian market and the recent launch of the Adamo laptop, a campaign that bears an embarrassing similarity to the work Arnell did for Samsung a few years ago. Dell was even forced to use other agencies within and outside the WPP Empire when Enfatico couldn’t cope with the work.

Much has been made of the unsupported fact that Dell is a “difficult” client. I worked on the account at Chiat, which then became GMO, in San Francisco. We did great work and the client was no more difficult than any other that actually expects its agency to produce work that sells stuff. Perhaps Dell started to get pissed off with Enfatico when the first work out of the agency’s door was a campaign for themselves, rather than their single client. As usual, the ads talked about breaking down walls, getting rid of silos, etc., something BDA’s have been bleating about for years with little effect.

Obviously, this whole situation is a huge cream pie in Martin Sorrell’s face, not only will he have to lay off the bulk of Enfatico’s 800 person work force, he’s also stuck with a ten year lease on a huge chunk of Mid-Town Manhattan office space. The rippling financial effects will be felt throughout the WPP Empire.

Will anything be learned from this debacle? Probably not. BDA’s like dinosaurs are incapable of evolution, and as long as they all (with the exception of Wieden—which is big, but not dumb) belong to one of the four holding companies, it will always be about making the numbers. It was best put by the CFO of a major BDA a few years ago when they had picked up an account which encouraged creative work… “Fuck the work, what about the money?”

George Parker is a guest columnist for psfk.com. He the perpetrator of adscam.typepad.com, which is without doubt, one of the most foul and annoying, piss & vinegar ad blogs on the planet. He is the author of MadScam and his new book, The Ubiquitous Persuaders, which is currently setting the ether ablaze (and which you can order now on Amazon). He will continue to relentlessly promote the crap out of it until you are forced to stab yourself in the eyes with knitting needles.

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