Arment Dietrich is a boutique marketing and communications firm. There are a lot of really good boutique companies. From Canada to Sweden to the U.K. and throughout the U.S., I can easily name the top 10, but Edelman is not among them. Sure they’re a top 10 firm, easily, in the world of large companies, but boutique? I don’t care how you skin it, that is not the appropriate category.
That’s why I was so surprised to read about Ruth, the Edelman “brand integration boutique” that combines every media channel (except media buying) and is named after the founder’s wife. I actually think the idea is great, if you can make it work without budget fights and “hogging” client work.
Before 9/11, I moved to Chicago to work for an ad agency because they wanted to integrate PR in order to offer full services. While the idea was benevolent, it didn’t work as well as we would have liked. There was A LOT of education of the advertising folks about PR and there was some education of the PR team about creative, direct, and media buying. There were fights about budgets and who deserved which piece of the pie. I can’t remember one instance that we actually did what was best for the client (not to say it didn’t happen – I just can’t recall). And then the country had a crisis and clients cut back and I left.
But that’s not the point. My point is Ruth is not a boutique anything. They have 70 employees and the backing of the largest independent PR firm in the world. That’s mid-sized. If we had 70 employees, no one would call us boutique, nor could we compete in that category.
Boutique, in my book, is a company that was started by one or two founders and was bootstrapped through growth. A boutique is a company that specializes in one thing, has a niche industry, and does it better than anyone else. A boutique is small (hence the name), but powerful in its own right. Ruth is none of those things.
I wish Ruth the best of luck. I really do. I hope, between this and their move to buy smaller firms, we all see an effect in our business’s growth. But, until Patrick McGuire (their head) lies awake in the middle of the night wondering how he’s going to make payroll or has to create process and procedure out of nothing or gets to define values and culture that don’t rely on a parent company, don’t call yourself boutique.
What do you think?