At the 4A’s Transformation Conference, Jeff King gave a great talk about Barkley parting ways with Sonic, it’s signature client. The agency produced the very successful “Two Guys” campaign — and was stunned when the business went into review. Barkley is not unique in this — many creative companies have one or two clients that make up a lion’s share of their billings.
You don’t need to be Warren Buffett to see how vulnerable this position is. And like General Motors in the early 2000’s pumping out hundreds of thousands of SUV’s, we’re too busy maintaining and protecting our current business model to create contingencies. (See “investing” in the last post.)
King talked candidly about how hard Barkley was hit and what they did before and during the process of agency redevelopment
True growth is often painful. King shared in detail how the agency navigated the difficult process of staff “triage” — layoffs, remaining talent and key new hires. Sonic had represented over 60% of Barkley’s revenue. Now, no one client makes up more than 7%.
Postscript: One year after Sonic awarded the business to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the client decided the new campaign wasn’t working — and directed GS&P to go back to the original “Two Guys” campaign.