I was never sympatico with Enfatico

WPP announced Friday it was folding its much-heralded, one-stop shop called Enfatico into its Young & Rubicam Brands unit. The move comes as absolutely no surprise and means that Enfatico is now just part of a larger ad agency.

In case you don't recall, Enfatico was created by WPP in the midst of a titanic, new business struggle between the holding companies for the once massive Dell Computer account. It was WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell's brainchild and positioned as the 'ideal' solution to Dell's stated desire for a fully-integrated parter. Rather than having a single WPP agency such as JWT or Ogilvy pitch Dell, Sir Martin instead forged an entirely new entity called Enfatico. It was led by executives from WPP's best and brightest advertising, public relations, digital and research units, and it won the day.  Even so, Enfatico seemed to many industry observers at the time as a house of cards.
Enfatico just might have worked if the economy hadn't headed south and their 'rabbi' at Dell, Mark Jarvis, hadn't left the client organization. But, when you mix a horrific economy with a change in chief marketing officers, it almost always spells doom.

Since Enfatico won the business, Dell's spending has dropped from just under $800 million to $379 million. Ouch! And, Enfatico has been unable to attract other clients to its roster. End result: bye-bye autonomy and hello subservient Y&R subsidiary.

I'll bet the Enfatico brand name disappears entirely in a year or so. Integrated marketing is a flawed concept. First, it assumes that one can assemble the very best advertising, PR, digital and research talent in the industry and create a super agency. Second, it assumes these ego-driven personalities could co-exist in the same office.

I worked for two 'fully-integrated agencies in the 1990s. Neither one is still around. They didn't work because the best PR people didn't like being treated as second-class citizens by their advertising brethen. And clients weren't very keen on the various disciplines bickering over how best to spend the budget.

Despite its obvious failure, high profile 'solutions' such as Enfatico will emerge again in the future. Why? Because there will always be a new Mark Jarvis type who comes along believing that a super, integrated agency will make him a rock star. And, because there will always be a Sir Martin type who will be ready, willing and able to take another stab at a broken model.
For now, Enfatico will continue to do work for Dell as part of Y&R. But, I sense an account review in the very near future. And, don't be surprised if the new powers-that-be at Dell say they believe working with separate agencies is the smarter way to go. Ob-la-di. Ob-la-da. Life goes on.

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