Gale Aims To Integrate Clients’ Agency Partners

galeAgencies live in a dog-eat-dog world, fighting for diminishing brand budgets. How can a new agency compete against giants with huge war chests and tons of employees?

For Gale Partners, a two-and-a-half-year-old digital agency that began as a systems integrator, the trick is to frame its data and strategy capabilities in a way that solves a specific problem for the CMO, said CEO Brad Simms.

“We see a broader set of responsibilities under the CMO than we’ve ever seen before,” said Simms, who spent 10 years at SapientNitro and served as CMO of Canadian corporate travel company TravelEdge. “They’re responsible for new business and sourcing models. It’s creating a lot of stress.”

Gale is a little different from other agencies out there. Its origins in technology gave it the capabilities to build its own tech stack, which includes a data platform for segmenting audiences, a consumer survey platform and a CMS.

But its real goal is to integrate insights across a client’s agency partners, including media, creative, social and PR. Gale isn’t looking to be anyone’s agency of record, Simms said.

“When we formed Gale, we realized that we were never going to be the only agency a client needed,” Simms said. “Collaboration had to be at our core.”

All of the agencies working with a client have their own insights and their own ways of mining data, Simms said. “We help manage those other agencies to make sure we have alignment on insights.”

Getting these agencies to work together is tough. Agencies are ramping up their own consulting and strategy chops and don’t necessarily want to take command from a new player.

Gale gets them to play ball by sticking to its area of expertise.

“We’re not immediately threatening,” Simms said. “We’re not an above-line agency, we don’t do PR, we don’t buy media at scale and we don’t do events. They might not feel super warm and fuzzy about [working with us], but we position it as the best way to grow the clients’ business.”

By gaining a trusted advisor role with CMOs, Gale convinces other agencies to follow its direction on insights.

“There is this spot where CMOs are confused and under massive pressure,” Simms said. “If you’re there across all of their problems, you get that trusted advisor position and you can help navigate the business. That also helps gets the other agencies on your side.”

As it grows, Gale is pitting itself against traditional management consultancies like Accenture, Deloitte and McKinsey that are acquiring their way into the marketing space. While Gale can’t match their size and scale, it sees an advantage in its ability to adapt.

“A lot of agencies start as [one thing] and can’t get out of being that,” Simms said. “You can acquire capabilities, but your DNA tends to be your DNA. Everything gets set up around that: your values, systems, the way you manage.”

But making a name in the competitive agency space is almost as tough as leading a group of agency partners.

“Being a relatively new agency can sometimes hurt us,” he said. “You don’t get fired for choosing R/GA.”

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