Sugartown Creative Courts Sweeter Deal

NYT: Most everyone on Madison Avenue waxes rhapsodic about the “partnerships” between agencies and their clients, ignoring the reality that agencies all too often prove about as indispensable as Pez. Now, a boutique agency is hoping to rectify that by actually going into business with a client.
The boutique, Sugartown Creative in New York, is working with Trudie Styler and her husband, the musician Sting, to introduce a line of premium-priced organic food items that are produced on the couple’s estate farm in the Tuscany region of Italy.
Sugartown Creative is responsible for the packaging and marketing of the line, named Il Palagio after the villa on the estate, as well as subsequent advertising campaigns for the products.
Rather than being compensated through commissions or fees, Sugartown Creative will earn a percentage of the revenue that the products generate at specialty food stores. The four initial Il Palagio products – an olive oil and three flavors of honey – are scheduled to be introduced today at the Harrods department store in London.
Plans call for Il Palagio products to be brought next year to the United States, where Sugartown Creative will serve as the sales agent.

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. Interesting post – not so much for the type of arrangement but that it’s considered to be so “groundbreaking.” In fact, agencies outside of New York City have had to do this with clients for many years.
    The drawback? As I mentioned in my post for tomorrow’s “Much Ado About Marketing” blog:
    “True partnership between an agency and a client is rarely achieved. Instead, most arrangements like the one described between Sugartown and Il Palagio are an attempt by the client to delay paying the agency until the brand gets off the ground and the cash starts rolling in.”
    “The major drawback: it always seems that everyone else BUT the agency gets paid first. “Partnership” really means getting at the end of the line when it comes to paying costs, fees or dividends for all that hard work.”
    Good luck to Sugartown in their dealings with this client. I hope they do really, really well.
    Mike Bawden
    Brand Central Station

  2. We thank Mr. Bawden for his good wishes, and would like to let him know that while he paints an accurate picture of a typical clients’ motivation concerning partnerships, the Sumners are certainly not typical marketing clients.
    Trudie Styler is a seasoned film producer (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to name one) and is quite used to putting large sums of cash up front to get a new venture going.
    Her motivation for agreeing to this partnership had nothing to do with saving up-front costs. We approached her with this arrangement because we saw a good thing and she agreed to it because she saw us as a valuable partner in the important task of marketing the brand.
    This may sound like BS, but considering how little respect many clients have for what their agency does, we already feel that our hard work has been paid back by the unusual pleasure of working with such a gracious client who has allowed us to do some of our best creative yet.
    Fritz Westenberger
    Sugartown Creative