by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) NEW YORK CITY: As a summary of day two of the AdForum Worldwide Summit NYC, 24–28 April 2017, my takeout is simple: if an agency these days doesn’t have in-house content production — to the highest standards — it’s not an agency of today. Production, production, production. Clients want it and agencies are best placed to do this; in-house is faster and more cost-efficient. It’s the name of today’s game.


First up was Wunderman and we met with global CEO, Mark Reed, who’d told us 18 months before of the plans for the agency. It was terrific to see that they’ve all come to fruition, and so he was able to share some excellent case studies — including a magnificent example from client, Investec.

South Africa and South Africans are big in Wunderman, which recently merged WPP-acquired Acceleration into the Wunderman fold.

Creatively driven and data-inspired, Wunderman’s purpose is to inspire people to take action. It is also observing that marketers are trying to understand consumers more than brands. With 7 000 people in 170 offices in 60 markets, Wunderman’s largest setup is in EMEA, and its top global team members have been attracted from other major networks.

The three case studies — Investec, T-Mobile and GSK — perfectly illustrated what Wunderman is achieving. Its client remits are expanding as the successes which the agency is demonstrating through data are encouraging clients to give it more of their strategic marketing communications work. Wunderman is now able to handle all aspects of advertising, except media buying, and has become more than just a direct marketing agency. It also seems to have simplified a complex world and have found a way to handle client conflict. It regards confidentiality as more important than exclusivity for clients and has built the agency accordingly.

Moving Picture Company (MPC)

Next was MPC, which is owned by Technicolor. It was the first of many content producers that we met during the AdForum summit this time. It works mainly with premium clients via their agencies and is producing content which will support brands on multiple platforms.

“Innovation is in our portfolio” is its positioning and it has done pioneering work with virtual reality (VR) for brands such as John Lewis and Adidas.

Collaboration is easy for them — sometimes its suppliers are competitors, too — it all depends on the remit.


VICE is a production and media company set up for youth markets, which has its own TV channel, VICELAND, and is the company that understands millennials. It’s been 11 years since it was founded and it produces 6000 pieces of content per day now. With 600+ staff in 36 offices, it is able to produce content in 22 languages. The company is a warren of production studios producing original shows and content for their channel and others. A very impressive setup.

VIRTUE is the agency born out of VICE, created in response to marketers’ requests. With the belief that “brands have to think and act like media channels”, VIRTUE has organised itself into an agency able to produce branded content based on tighter brand-led briefs. As one of the other agencies said to us, this agency is writing the book on how things should be done in the new era.

The founders believe that “if you don’t have anything interesting to say as a brand, then you are just a product”. And “content is the new brand strategy”.

Case studies for Belvedere Vodka and Diesel were shown to us in order to illustrate its capability. Other brands it works with include YouTube, Unilever, Samsung, Red and Coke — a real mixture of older and newer ones.

VIRTUE competes in pitches with Droga, Mother and 72&Sunny, so the competitive set is clear.

Big SpaceshipBig Spaceship

We met this agency about two years ago, when it presented to us in a “speed-dating session”. This time, it showed us its new agency premises, talked about its growth (which has been considerable), and showed us “live” case studies in smaller groups, which made the afternoon much more interesting as we met the agency teams as well.

It’s an agency with a learning culture that “does not stop changing”. It believes in culture and behaviour over technology and platforms. Its four principles are:

  • Take care of each other
  • Collaborate inside and out
  • Speak up ( no silent disagreement)
  • Do great work

It also positions itself as “a modern partner to ambitious brands”.


We ended day two with one of the most-exciting agencies globally and an AdForum favourite. With its “no timesheet” strategy, this agency enjoyed 58% organic growth in 2016 and 42% growth in new business. Ad Age voted it Agency of the Year in 2016 and it is expanding from its six offices and 600 people across Europe. Berlin will be its seventh office.

As well as being a strong growth agency, it has set up a separate division called ACE which produces content for brands, branded entertainment and a TV series.

See also


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is managing director of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. Johanna is one of the few experts driving this mediation and advisory service in SA and globally. Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits as an international consultant, which helps her lead the SA advertising industry forward, keep in line with international trends and remain competitive. She runs the IAS Marketers Masterclass, a programme consisting of masterclasses held in Cape Town and in Johannesburg.

Sign up now for the MarkLives email newsletter every Monday and Thursday, now including headlines from the company newsroom service!

Online CPD Courses Psychology Online CPD Courses Marketing analytics software Marketing analytics software for small business Business management software Business accounting software Gearbox repair company Makeup artist