‘Holding’ companies need to redefine themselves through their client’s eyes.

Holding‘Holding’ can be a very positive word. After all, there is nothing better than ‘holding’ a baby, ‘holding’ up your end of the bargain is always the right thing to do, and ‘holding’ yourself accountable shows real character. But ‘holding’ can sometimes imply a negative meaning. Like in ‘holding’ pen or ‘holding’ a grudge, or in the case of advertising and marketing services, ‘holding’ company.

I guess Wall Street recognizes the value of a ‘holding’ company, but what about clients? Remember them? Without clients, Omnicom, WPP, Publicis and IPG would be empty offices with blank computer screens, with a combined stock price of zero. I have never understood why they allow themselves to be defined as and operate as a ‘holding’ company.

‘Holding’ is about confining, controlling, restricting and restraining. (Like ‘holding’ on with a tight grip.) Financial people may find this attractive, but it’s not exactly a benefit for clients who want open access to extraordinary people with the experience, expertise and talent to grow their brands. I can tell you firsthand that being part of a ‘holding’ company doesn’t exactly get creative people up in the morning.

These organizations should consider redefining themselves more as ‘resource’ companies than ‘holding’ companies. ‘Resources’ are essential for growth. ‘Resources’ are what marketers need now more than ever. Given the ever-changing media landscape, they cannot afford to be confined by a structure that restricts their ability to gain diverse experience and talent in an open, flexible way. Advertising agencies that used to find comfort in being ‘agency of record’ need to operate more as ‘catalyst of record,’ providing clients with fluid access to the myriad of specialized resources and technology within their group without first thinking about their own P&L.

Look, it is always hard to suggest change to organizations whose stock price is at an all time high, but maybe that is the best time for these ‘holding’ companies to look at who they are through fresh eyes. All organizations need to define, or in this case, redefine, themselves in a differentiating and elevating way that resonates with their customers and inspires all of their people. For these ‘holding’ companies, which are amazingly powerful entities, repositioning themselves as a ‘resource’ organization and then creating a turnkey, collaborative way for clients to access their talent and expertise in an open, brand-centric way, could be the best way to ‘hold’ onto their most talented people and most important clients.


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