“Not Enough Agencies Say No”: BWM’s Alex Carr

“Not Enough Agencies Say No”: BWM’s Alex Carr

In a toughening environment, agencies are scrambling to pick up work, without sparing much thought to whether the client aligns with the agency’s values. At least, that’s what Alex Carr has been seeing.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

The Sydney managing director at creative agency BWM Dentsu said some agencies aren’t taking a step back to think.

“I don’t think enough agencies say no, for the right reasons, on pitches,” he told B&T.

“Chemistry and alignment and the values of the company are really, really important. I don’t think anyone takes a breath to consider it because this environment is so tough.

“Sometimes we’ve pulled out of pitches because we’ve felt we’re not on the same level.”

BWM Dentsu picked up the Qantas account in November last year, releasing its first work a few weeks ago. Carr noted Qantas is a brand that knows what it stands for, and one the agency has chemistry with.

“Our belief as an agency is in the transformational power of brands,” he said. “So Qantas felt like a good match in the relationship when we started.”

There had been instances prior to BWM where Carr said the pitches just didn’t feel right. When the head honchos came back and said they hadn’t gone through with the pitch, Carr said the respect level for the exec team surged.

“I remember gasps of relief and pride in the agency that has a sense of self and able to say no.”

However, he recognises not all agencies have the luxury of declining work. Some agencies need the work to make ends meet.

“To get it to a place where your business is sustainable and you can make informed decisions on how to work, is a really good place to be.”

Still, it goes without saying agencies want to build long-term relationships with clients, and not get punted to the kerb when something shiny comes along. Which is why Carr said it’s so critical to ensure the chemistry is right and the client/agency relationship is strong.

Clients often now have a plethora of agencies all trying to work together harmoniously. But these specialisations are both good and bad, said Carr.

“Lean marketing teams trying to manage eight agencies, there is a need for someone to lead,” he said. And it should be the brands in charge, not the agencies. But not all know how to do it.

“There’s a need for specialisation, but the need for specialisation cause problems which is proliferated through teams and therefore proliferated through agencies,” which is even more apparent in clients where the brand isn’t leading.

This confusion leads to “short term-ism”, said Carr, which brings the client back to putting out a tender and agencies re-pitching for the business.

“The role of brand has never, ever been more important. If you can get that right, everything becomes more efficient.”