by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) LOS ANGELES: On our fifth and final day of the AdForum Worldwide Summit LA, 25 weary pitch consultants set out for a packed day of meetings with three agencies: Spark44, 180 LA and Deutsch.


First up was a very unusual agency called Spark44, which is the first independent global agency group to be a joint venture with a client. With 1100 people and 18 offices in the world, including Johannesburg, it has organised the group into hubs in the various regions. It’s a partner model with 50% owned by the client, 25% by the agency partners and 25% owned by agency staff. The agency was formed in 2011 and has seen significant growth since the outset.

The main client partner is Jaguar Land Rover, which wanted a new business model with its agency partners. The result has been a gamechanger within the industry, according to Spark44, and at a time when 85% of companies consider themselves in a state of transformation (according to Gartner); this is an agency model which could gain traction.

Spark44 does absolutely everything in marketing communications for Jaguar Land Rover, which has also made for great cost-efficiencies for the brand (which used to have about 70 agencies across the world). Although the agency started out with the two car brands, it now has recently won other brands such as Tetley Tea, Master & Dynamics, Alliance, TATA and Harley Davidson.

Originally the name was going to be Spark4, which relates to the automotive sector, but Spark44 is where it has landed up.

It talked about the fact that it’s able to save up to 27% of costs per head as a result of its model, making it a very attractive agency from a cost perspective.

180 LA

180 was formed 20 years ago in Amsterdam and it opened in LA in 2006 as a result of client needs. There are two offices for 180, with 55 people in the LA office and 95 in Amsterdam. (Interestingly, since then and most recently, LA has seen a renaissance in its advertising industry and, of course, in tech there’s continuous innovation.) The name 180 is all about turning 180 degrees in order to obtain a different perspective.

Omnicom owns this agency but yet the agency has retained its independence while being able to access all of the different services that the group has — hugely beneficial to the agency. Even more interesting is that the original founder of 180 is now back in the agency after an absence of a couple of years post-buyout.

It talked about three different perspectives:

  • Monitoring of 60+ wave forms for insights and opportunities
  • Creating emotional future case studies
  • Creating teams within their own structure and with specialists within Omnicom

We were shown some highly creative work and case studies for:

  • Boost
  • Expedia: bringing the world to children — sharing the power of travel
  • Lululemon: a yoga brand needing to find some white space in running
  • University of Phoenix: gender equity in IT
  • Replay: Hyperflex
  • Bonprix — boring housewives

Definitely an agency that every brand would want on a pitch list — inspirational and strong team skills, great chemistry.


And finally, Deutsch, with 400 people in LA, plus an office in New York of 300. It is part of the IPG network and so can work with other agencies in the group across the globe, should the need arise with clients.

In LA, it has full production studios and capabilities, and we were shown the extent of these very impressive facilities along with the type of work that it does for clients such as VW, Taco Bell, H&R Block and Hulu.

It sees itself as strong in business consulting, awareness-level modelling and business-opportunity analysis, and has developed its digital skills to an in-depth level, able to assist clients in all sorts of business transformation eg with VW and the way to shop for a car.

And, so, yet another summit came to an end and with some interesting learnings:

  • Most teens and young adults put their no. 1 job preference as creating video content for YouTube — creators
  • More digital video content is watched via TV now as opposed to via the computer
  • While there’s very slow growth in traditional media adspend, digital media is growing very fast and those agencies which are already in that territory are growing, too
  • The growth of film and branded content is now exponential and businesses are being formed around this extraordinary phenomenon, which tends to be more pronounced within youth culture.
  • Agency positioning is becoming more and more critical in defining the types of clients to work with and in order to attract the best type of clients.

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. She will be presenting detailed and in-depth reports and case studies on each agency from this 2019 AdForum Summit at her masterclass presentation in Johannesburg in May.

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