So a Corporation (Coty) and an Agency (Beamly) Walk Into a Bar…

The bartender looks up and says, “Hey, we don’t serve your kind in here.” The agency, obviously insulted, responds, “What’s the big idea?” Indignant, the bartender replies, “I guess we’ll never know.”

BEAMLY.COTYHow is it possible for an agency, owned by a corporation, to remain an independent agency?

Four years ago, Deloitte Consulting founded Deloitte Digital, an agency within a consulting firm. And it has been a raving success achieving over $1.5 billion in revenues. But that’s a service firm starting a service agency… and sharing all of its accounts. How does a corporation buy an agency and expect that agency to be 100 percent committed to the corporation and yet remain independent?

I get that Coty’s P&G acquisition will present Beamly with a dessert table worthy of drooling over… CoverGirl, Clairol, Wella and such prestige fragrances as Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. That’s more than enough to make my mouth water. And somehow, on top of all this, Coty expects Beamly will continue to objectively work with other clients? How does that work?

According to Ad Age, “London-based Beamly has been working with Coty in recent months and will continue to do so, but the plan is for it to continue working with a wide range of outside clients too, said Camillo Pane, exec VP-category development of Coty.” Beamly will become a part of Coty, owned by Coty, serving Coty and all of its new brands, while also continuing to work with outside clients.

So is this the new agency business model the industry is searching for? Because I don’t get it. How does Beamly effectively serve two masters – Coty and its band of brands, plus the world at large? Isn’t there a generally accepted notion that serving two masters can’t be done?

I will openly admit that I am envious of Beamly and this amazing opportunity. And if I am Jason Forbes, I am one happy camper. But I am also an unabashed nonbeliever.

This is a business model that feels like it is doomed to fail, partly because it is just too ambitious, partly because it has never been done before (so there is no road map) and partly because it doesn’t make sense.

Jim Sweeney

Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.