McGarry Bowen Vs. Mother: A Study In Contrasts

Reading through AdAge this week, which highlights agencies of the year, I noticed an interesting contrast in McGarry Bowen, AdAge’s Agency of the Year, and Mother, Creativity Agency of the Year.
Here’s a bit from the McGarry profile, focusing on great account service as a hallmark of the agency:

“He is a class act and consummate professional,” said Verizon’s exec VP-chief marketing officer, John Stratton, of Mr. McGarry, who is renowned in the business as the epitome of the courtly, old-school account man. “He worked for two and half years to maintain the relationship, despite what were probably hard feelings. … John really understands how to manage relationships well. It’s not overbearing, but he doesn’t fall off the radar screen long enough that you forget about him and his company.”

And Mother? Well, they don’t have account people:

The agency’s account-people-less structure, (Agency Co-ECD Linus) Mr. Karlsson said, empowers creatives, who end up getting more involved in clients’ businesses. “[Account management] is a discipline that everyone in that group shares,” he said. “It’s one little thing but it forces everyone, including creatives, to not just be in their own world.” And along with dedicated account managers, Mother eschews a top-down management style. “We think that no one else should represent anyone else’s point of view. If you have a question about something that was written you talk to the person who wrote it. That engages the people who work on an account.”

I guess there’s something to be said for both approaches. Either way, you have to get involved in your client’s business. I’ve always tried to understand how my clients work, the market they’re in, and what they need to make money. And still I meet people in the ad business who don’t seem to care one way or another–choosing to focus on ideas solely, not the client’s business situation.
Is there an approach you prefer?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Well, we recently panned the Oscar Mayer work from McGarryBowen. And you’d be hard-pressed to find any McGarryBowen work that doesn’t feel like something from the 1980s or 1990s. Plus, McGarryBowen would probably be the first to concede that their digital capabilities are 20th century at best. So honestly, what’s to celebrate here? Yes, great account services are critical for success. But at some point, someone is going to take a closer look at the work and see there’s nothing there.

  2. High Jive, a.k.a whateva,
    I did pan the Oscar Meyer work.
    But I’d ask you to clean up your use of personal pronouns herein. If you panned the work on your site too, “we” might work, but not when you use our domain as the source of the comment.

  3. Ha. Didn’t even think about the use of personal pronouns – just typing comments. Was actually considering all the critiques/comments on that particular thread, which seemed to show a collective panning.

  4. In that case, “we” does make sense. I’m so sensitive sometimes.

  5. Iamalover says:

    Obviously “whateva” has no idea what s/he is talking about. Did s/he even look at the Agency’s DROID, HP, MIRACLE WHIP, or CHASE work? I can hear him/her sayin’ “whateva…’
    Gotta love the haters.

  6. Just went to their website. I agree with whateva. Their work feels tremendously dated.

  7. additionally, their website is difficult to navigate, which supports the contention that they lack digital chops.
    btw, lamalover, the work you referenced was the basis for my original comment. guess we all have different opinions and standards, huh?