Ad Age is looking for innovative strategies for the next advertising agency model. In their first article, “How Toyota got in touch with the heartland” they look at how mega-agency Saatchi & Saatchi partnered with 4 small agencies and 5 freelance creative consultants to work on the new Toyota Tundra campaign.

Now why would Saatchi do that? And why would Toyota agree? It’s called diversity- maybe not in the traditional sense of minority hiring, or Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business- but in diversity of ideas. Big agencies, in big cities are sometimes insulated from the reality of the rest of the country. As Ad Age points out- the difference between calling that thing under the back bumper a “tow hitch” or a “receiving hitch” would escape most creatives in LA.

It’s also a form of creative out-sourcing- not in a bad way, but in a forward thinking way like the way Eli Lilly and Company went Open Source in their search for answers to create new drugs. Saatchi can hire an agency where 80% of the employees actually own pick-ups(Brothers & Co) as opposed to the yuppie-mobile favored by people in LA. The perspective on the consumer is different out here in the “fly-over” states.

A recent trip to NYC gave me insight on the BMW motorcycle account. Walking around NYC I saw BMW’s everywhere. The agency is in NY, the client in NJ- this is what they see. The only time you see more BMW’s than Harley’s in the Midwest is when the weather sucks- and we BMW riders are the only ones on the road. Our reality is that the dealers are going under left and right- from lack of interest generated by advertising created in an alternate reality- where BMW’s rule, and dealerships are plentiful.

Saatchi also doesn’t have to carry as many people by using this strategy. Why buy the cow, when you only need the milk? The cost of a creative team is more than just salaries and benefits- overhead for office space, computers, support personnel all add up.

Is this the model of the future? Is this the beginning of the end of the Mega-agency and a return to small creative shops? Are there creatives outside the spheres of advertising that can do good work? Whoever heard of creative in Minneapolis, Portland or Miami before Fallon, Wieden + Kennedy and Crispin Porter + Bogusky?

The best soliders in the US Army, a megalithic organization, aren’t operating in the huge units- they work in teams of 12 on a Special Forces team. Maybe the ad world is starting to see that big isn’t always beautiful. After all is said and done, most “Big Ideas” come from a creative team of two.

Maybe the return of the creative team is the next big thing.

Ad Age lists the team for the Tundra campaign:

Saatchi & Saatchi LA

Agency partners:
Brothers & Co. Tulsa
Pocket Hercules, Minneapolis
VSA Design, Fort Collins Co.
RadicalMedia LA

Freelance Creative Consultants:
Eric McClellan
Ray Johnson
Andrew Christou
Charlie Tercek
Gavin Milner

If you know the links to Eric or Gavin- let me know.