Over the course of a year, Shell, the multinational oil and gas company, undertook a project to rethink its creative and media relationships at both a global and local level. What resulted was a new way of working with the chosen agencies. Here’s what it learned.

Before the project, the company was working with a total roster of 90 agencies around the world. “Probably 80 too many,” said Carolyn McKeever, Global Head of Downstream Marketing Communications, speaking at the Festival of Marketing. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: How Shell built its Agency of the Future roster.)

Shell’s global account is huge, far too big for any one agency to take on. While it would require a roster, a key part of the selection process involved understanding which agencies would work best together. As such, it asked the agencies pitching to assemble into groups – “we called them ‘boy bands’ in the end,” McKeever says – so that from pitch through to actually beginning the relationships, the agencies would be collaborating from the start.


Ultimately, McKeever explains, the brand’s marketing function is now far more expert as a result of the project, which is to say, data-led. But bigger than that was the new way of working that the project has delivered. 

As a client, she says, Shell has taken a hard look at itself and is now conscious that it must collaborate with its agencies, just as it demands that they collaborate with each other. The chaos is good: despite the trend of in-housing creative and/or media, for Shell, the access to the best talent (on both fronts) is more likely to come from its agencies.

“We tend to give out [that] agencies part of the problem,” lamented McKeever – herself an agency veteran – but the reason for assembling an expensive roster of agencies was to be able to share the business objective of the work.

Simply: “The bigger the problem, the better the answer,” she reported, both on the media and creative sides. “Don’t be scared with that great big number or objective that you’ve got – bring them in.”

Sourced from WARC