At a glance

Shell’s agency review sought to bring higher-level collaboration into the heart of the firm’s marketing operation by insisting agencies pitch together in order to function together. The project, which ran over a year, saw the construction of a multi-disciplinary team of agencies whose full strategic expertise could be better unlocked. Shell, as a client, became more open to sharing business problems.

Why it matters

Agencies with a strategic capability are at their best when let loose on the knottiest of business problems, which allow them to expand the problem and lead to better solutions. It’s an expensive though worthwhile lesson.


  • Agency rosters at big global brands can become messy and unwieldy, and fixing them requires serious work.
  • Clients often think they know the answer to a strategic question and hand only the downstream work to their agencies; more considered engagement opens up valuable expertise and creates value.
  • Traditional names with big TVC capabilities have fallen behind the expectations of some clients, whose business questions are more readily and roundly answered by agencies set up for digital channels (and the complexity of metrics they create).