It was the creation of Ed Ney, who at the time was president of Young & Rubicam International. Ney had completed the purchase of Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline, the leading direct marketing agency, and wanted to communicate what the new capability would mean for Y&R's blue-chip client list. As a matter of fact, he wanted to communicate a grand vision for his clients of what the various, new capabilities he had acquired would represent, capabilities including public relations, package design and sales promotion. He called the concept the Whole Egg.
Ney was driven to create a one-stop shop of specialized skills and communications services that would be seamlessly integrated for his clients. He should have succeeded and he could have succeeded. But like Time Warner after him, and many others today, a brilliant strategic intent failed in the execution.
There are two elements to the transformation of an enterprise that are too often forgotten: organizational design and incentive plans. And so it was with the Whole Egg. I never forgot the tale of a young account manager who attended a meeting with the senior executives of one of Ney's bluest of blue-chip clients.
They bought the vision completely. And so the young Luke Skywalker account man was dispatched from the direct marketing firm where he worked to the Death Star ad agency to inform the senior account manager there that the client had requested they work together -- and to reallocate the budget to include several of the new services.
What young Luke did not understand was that Ney had not changed the basis on which the Death Star account managers were paid -- that is, the size of the client budget that they controlled. The new team meeting did not go well. In order to provide the client with valuable new services, the current organizational design and incentive plan would have directly reduced the key players' compensation.
This was and remains a failure of management because it fails to recognize a simple fact of human behavior: people do what they get paid to do.
Today we are looking for ways to create whole eggs everywhere, or we should be. (Noted a recent headline: "who owns social media...PR, SEO, marketing, digital?")
Consumer empowerment, which brilliant organizations provided through enabling technology, demands a unified view and unified delivery of products and services. Most organizations -- including advertisers, agencies, content providers and distributors -- are dealing with numbing change, in most cases by effectively developing and offering new functional capabilities. But leaving legacy organizational structures in place and worse, paying people for prior objectives, will never result in meaningful change. Even if you create a great name for the vision.