Lumbering Giants Of The Ad Biz Are Out Of Place And Out Of Fashion

Ad Age is pointing to Unilever’s decision to hire startup agency, Roth Partners, as a sign of things to come.

Mike Polk, president-global foods, home and personal care at Unilever, said Roth Partners beat out big rivals because it could provide a “channel-agnostic” approach with the right talent faster than other Unilever shops or holding companies were prepared to do.

Roth Partners, which purports to be “a new model for holisitic marketing and brand communications,” was founded by Rick Roth in 2009 after a 31-year career in a variety of assignments for Ogilvy & Mather, most recently as CEO of the OgilvyAction shopper and promotion marketing unit.

Roth is selling what marketers today want to buy, and positioning his firm as nimble, yet resourceful. “For marketers caught between unwieldy agency empires on the one hand and legions of one-trick shops on the other, Roth Partners is the answer,” argues one line of self-promotional copy on the agency web site.

The truth is lots of companies are rapidly adjusting to the new media age. Making claims about new agency models might be textbook positioning, but it’s unnecessary. Agencies exist to serve clients. And clients needs are constantly changing as the needs of their customers change. In other words, marketing communications is a fluid field and successful agencies are highly adaptable entities, open to daily reinvention.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. New Model My Ass says:

    Hmmm. Roth had a 31-year career at Ogilvy. And he picks up an assignment from Unilever. Unilever is a big Ogilvy client, no? Perhaps Roth won the assignment the old-fashioned way – through buddy connections. 

    • New Model My Ass says:

      Just skimmed the full Ad Age story. It included: “Mr. Polk and Mr. Roth have a relationship that spans decades to when Mr. Polk worked for Kraft Foods and Mr. Roth worked for Ogilvy on Kraft business. But Mr. Polk said the decision on the assignment came from people in his organization, not from him.”


    • Was just having this conversation on Saturday with a friend in the business. We’re both fans of the Blair Enns’ highly specialized approach to new business, wherein the service provider isn’t competing on price. Yet, I argued that the fundamentals of new business haven’t been impacted all that much by digital or any other wave of innovation. It’s still a “who you know” or “who knows you” business.