Two years ago, Wirz and Webrepublic announced that they would pool their expertise under the name "BoB - Best of Both". This was not a formal merger, but rather a project-based cooperation to create synergies that would provide customers with "the best of both worlds": creation and communication from Wirz, digital and media expertise from Webrepublic, bundled and coordinated by managers from both organizations. The Sonntagszeitung devoted a primeur to the project at that time; at the same time, a murmur went through the Swiss communications industry: Was this just the first step toward a merger of two of the country's largest agencies? And what would that mean for the competition?
"Fast forward to a June morning in 2022 at Webrepublic's headquarters on Bederstrasse in Zurich: The formal merger has not taken place, Wirz and Webrepublic continue to exist independently - but "BoB", says the leadership team of Petra Dreyfus, Tobias Zehnder, Simone Jehle and Tobias Eisner, is running better than ever. For Advertisingweek.ch they draw up an interim balance sheet.
Werbewoche.ch: Two years ago, Wirz and Webrepublic launched the project "BoB - Best of Both" together. What has happened since then?
Tobias Zehnder: Extremely much. Both agencies have invested enormously in cooperation - human resources, time, capacities for building cooperative structures... and we have become each other's most important partners: We started working together for big clients. For Yallo, Migipedia, and others; these are projects that you also see right now when you walk around the city of Zurich. We learned what works and optimized what didn't work at the beginning. Now it's just extremely fun to work together like this. The only thing we've never had is a joint Christmas party - the pandemic didn't help there, I have to say. (laughs).
Petra Dreyfus: "BoB" is still a want, not a need. Our cooperation is still based on the same two-page handout with which we started back then. The common working attitude of wanting to realize great projects for exciting customers has not changed - even if the pandemic meant that we were allowed to come together much less often than we had originally wished. But we have shown each other what we do in virtual "BoB-inars". And we learned a lot from each other.
How can I imagine the cooperation? Customers approach one of your agencies, then the mandate is extended to "BoB" if necessary - or do you pitch together right away?
Simone Jehle: My colleague Tobias Eisner and I are the direct contacts for the joint initiative - and quite often the customers want the combined power of "BoB" right from the start, so they contact both of us directly. But of course there are also Webrepublic customers who need support from Wirz at a certain point - and vice versa. We have already pitched together.
Dreyfus: The "single point of contact" with Simone Jehle and Tobias Eisner as the interface is a huge advantage. When someone contacts "BoB" directly, there is only one contact person. No confusion, no ambiguity - the customers tell the "BoB" people what they need, and we think about how best to solve it internally.
Zehnder: The responsible employees at Wirz and Webrepublic are then selected according to their competencies and sometimes the customers don't even know who from our joint pool of 400 experts is working on their orders - whether Webrepublic is currently in the lead or whether Wirz is providing more input - we then simply come out of the process via "BoB" with a great result and hopefully make everyone involved happy. (laughs).
Tobias Eisner: You know, customers don't always have the knowledge internally to decide a priori whether an agency like Webrepublic or an agency like Wirz would be better suited to solving their problems. They are therefore extremely positive about the fact that we help them make this decision - or that they no longer have to force a "decision".
You spoke earlier about getting to know each other between your two ventures. What surprised Wirz most about how Webrepublic works - and what was Webrepublic surprised by at Wirz?
Zehnder: The culture and the way Petra and Livio (Dainese, editor's note). working together as a leadership duo is mega cool. It's very direct, very inspiring. I also find the importance of ideas and the fact that people at Wirz fight so hard for good ideas impressive. And finally, I've learned a lot about how creativity can be organized as a process. On the media side, we often only see the finished artifact that plops out of the back of the machine at some point. But how you organize that as an interaction, so to speak, is really exciting.
Dreyfus: To put it bluntly: We as a creative agency often stop working where distribution starts working. Or perhaps even when it comes to parts of the realization. But both can ruin even the best idea - because ideas are ultimately only as good as their implementation. From Webrepublic we learn to understand better and better that ideas can be thought immediately towards the intended distribution. And that's great.
Jehle: I originally come from more of an offline background, but when I accepted the position of "BoB" client director on behalf of Wirz, I spent a few weeks at Webrepublic and was allowed to take a close look at everything. Meanwhile, my colleague Tobi Eisner, my counterpart from Webrepublic, went to Wirz. And I understood: Many wordings that we use in creation are interpreted quite differently in a digital agency. It's one industry, often working on the same challenge - but you have to be able to speak the same language to get the best results.
Other Swiss agencies have acquired additional competencies in recent years - and "merged" the corresponding agencies into themselves. Was the merger never an issue for you?
Zehnder: We are both very clearly positioned agencies with a claim to leadership in our respective fields. For Webrepublic, I would say that it would not have been possible for us to add the topic of creation in such a high quality as we did via "BoB" by simply hiring two or three additional people. Conversely, it would be less helpful for Wirz to buy and integrate a small or medium-sized digital agency. If we are completely honest, we lack credibility on the customer side.
Jehle: In collaboration, it is also extremely exciting for me not to be under one roof, but to believe in the same thing with different mindsets - to bring in two perspectives, to drive each other independently and in partnership, not to take the easiest possible path - not to put up the least resistance, but to make the best product the priority.
Zehnder: As for the merger, a colleague once put it succinctly: "Why invest the money in lawyers when we can invest it in collaboration and the team instead?" We may have subverted the expectations of the market - many didn't even believe that you could work together the way we do at "BoB". But it really works perfectly well.
When one of your agencies opens a new division - or a new sub-brand, as Webrepublic just did with "RAWR"; will this new offering then automatically become part of the "BoB" portfolio?
Zehnder: Sure, why not? If one of the two partners strengthens itself, expands its services, then that also helps the other. We live in a complex, fast-moving and extremely fragmented world, and the more fine-tuned and broadly based we can offer joint solutions here, the better.
You are already hinting at the future: What comes next for "BoB" - where do you see development and growth potential?
Jehle: We want to make the headquarters of "BoB", which currently operates with a core team, bigger. Webrepublic and Wirz have already realized really great things within these structures. We want more of that, that's clear.
Eisner: Let me say it in pitch-appropriate language (laughs)We want to design and implement exciting projects from A to Z and distribute them on the market with maximum effect. And we want to share even more training and know-how resources with each other.
Zehnder: Behind the scenes, we certainly want to work together even more closely on human resources issues and strategic planning. I think it will surprise some people in the industry to see what "BoB" will make possible.