Breakups can be messy, and possibly nobody in business knows this better than advertising agencies and their clients.
Often after creative agency staffers come up with a new logo, slogan or promotional campaign for a client, they will be abruptly dropped when the company chooses to go in another direction or do more marketing work themselves.
Minneapolis ad shop Mono decided to embrace the fickleness and launch monoOne, a one-year partnership model in which a Mono senior team will create a brand platform and execute it for a fixed fee before it then hands off a road map that can be expanded on by the company’s own staff. Mono executives hope the endeavor will lessen the painful transitions at the end of agency-client relationships.
“In traditional relationships, where you have an AOR [agency of record] or a project, usually that ends, and sometimes it ends because they have a financial obligation that they have to do something else and then you don’t have that connection with the company that allows them to continue the work that you started in a genuine way,” said Chris Lange, managing creative director and one of the co-founders of Mono.
He continued, “I think one of the unique things about monoOne is that it’s all in the open. It’s a one-year commitment. They know we are going to go away. We help train them on how to move it forward.”
Last month was the official launch of monoOne. While Mono hasn’t secured a client yet under the new structure, potential partnerships are under discussion.
The need for a different type of collaboration has arisen during a time when fewer companies are relying on just one agency of record that oversees all of their marketing. Many companies employ a wide team of firms to manage different aspects of their brand engagement — whether that be media buying and planning, public relations or mobile content. Sometimes firms are asked to help on a one-off project or particular initiative.
“Now the landscape is completely different,” said Michael Hart, a Mono co-founder and the firm’s other managing creative director. “You got CMOs [chief marketing officers] who have all sorts of opportunities and different partners to work with. … Sometimes they have an AOR to do that and work year over year. Sometimes they just need a transformational idea and then a partner that understands how to give them the tools.”
While good ideas are still paramount for good creative work, Hart said, part of the concept of monoOne is for the agency not to be territorial with their ideas.
The idea for the monoOne concept came about after Mono worked with boat-shoe maker Sperry. Mono concentrated on re-establishing the brand’s roots in adventure on the deep blue sea. It redid the Sperry logo and other brand work, and it launched its Odyssey Project campaign where it sent shoes to influencers and had them participate in one-of-a-kind adventures like shark tagging.
At the end of the project, sales were up 12 percent and awareness of the brand increased by 30 percent. Mono’s entire work with Sperry lasted about 14 months and at the end of it, Sperry had its internal team take over.
According to a 2013 survey done by the Association of National Advertisers, the penetration of in-house agencies has increased 16 percentage points to 58 percent from a similar survey conducted in 2008.
Mono, which opened its doors in 2004 and has its main headquarters in Uptown, has recently worked for brands such as Wal-Mart, Vera Bradley and Life cereal. Last summer, the firm expanded and opened a San Francisco office. Mono is under the umbrella of the MDC Partners holding company, which also owns local agencies Yamamoto and Colle+McVoy. Despite its new business, Mono also laid off 13 workers, or 10 percent of its staff, last month as part of a general restructuring. The staff reduction was not related to monoOne.
The concept of monoOne may particularly appeal to start-up firms that want to save money and will be drawn by the simplicity of the structure, said Jisu Huh, an advertising professor at the University of Minnesota and president of the American Academy of Advertising. However, in Huh’s eyes, monoOne seemed like a repackaging of services that already existed. “This is really nothing new, but I think they are trying to address the client’s side,” she said.
Paul Kolodge, president of Advertising Federation of Minnesota, said monoOne could be “mutually beneficial” to the firm and its clients. “The client is not necessarily signed on for a long duration … and Mono can work on some great accounts and do something new,” he said.