News & Views

Interview / Porter Gale on Effective Creative Partnerships

by Contagious Team

What does it take for a modern brand to navigate the
Marketing Metropolis? Well, a great sense of the landscape, for one.

We've invited Porter Gale, GM at Globality, to share the stage at Now Next Why Los Angeles. There, she'll help us understand how that landscape is shifting as companies consolidate, technologies enable new ways to connect and communicate, and firms begin to act on the promise of data.

With a background in the agency world, Gale was the CMO that launched Virgin America in the U.S. in 2007. Her list of achievements also includes authoring Your Network is Your Net Worth, producing lauded documentary films, advising startups and more.  

Currently, she is the general manager of the marketing vertical for Globality, a new company that’s working on opening up global trade to small and mid-sized businesses. Globality's early investors include Al Gore and Ron Johnson; it has raised more than $37 million in venture capital since it was founded last year.

At the Los Angeles edition of Now Next Why on May 24, Gale will join us in person to share more insight about how creative partnerships are evolving for the coming age, so agencies can avoid being a speed bump in the impending Uberification of the services sector. 

How did you view partnerships with agencies and agency-like-entities when you were at Virgin America?

Partnerships with agencies were incredibly important and core to the success of building the Virgin America brand. We had a very integrated relationship with our lead agency Eleven; our creative director, Jesse McMillin, was often working side-by-side with the creative team at the agency.

During my time at Virgin America, I was also a first-time client. Up to that point, my entire career had been agency-side, so it was not uncommon for me to call the president of Eleven and ask, 'How would other clients handle this? What have you seen with other CMOs?'

We also were frequent beta test partners with media and technology companies. We were early users of companies like Omniture, Quantcast, and Ustream. In exchange for our feedback and willingness to be featured in case studies, we were able to extend the reach of our marketing dollars and try out new tracking and measurement tools when advancements in digital marketing and social media were taking off.

Do you think that has shifted at all, in the broader industry, since you’ve moved away from a CMO seat?

It’s important to trust your agency not only from a creative perspective but a strategic one. One thing that does make me question an agency partnership or an agency's priority is when creative ideas that are wildly out of budget are presented. When this happens, I wonder if the agency really gets that brand and goals. I like to work with partners that will help manage a budget like it is their own.

A shift I see is that more and more companies are building internal teams focused on creative and growth. Some of this shift started to happen when tech companies began to mine insights in data to drive user acquisition. Because insights are now being unlocked internally (and not externally from a tracking study or other source), clients see the power of having their own in-house resources.

What do you think has been driving that change?

Marketing has its own type of Metcalfe's Law, the space is getting more and more sophisticated, with more players and possibilities. All one has to do is look at the current Lumascape of marketing players and you can see how rapidly the industry has evolved.

From a marketer’s perspective, the greatest challenge is not to identify what to do, but rather what not to do. It’s harder than ever to prioritize and to cut through the clutter of options.

The other big change is of course the shift from annual to real-time planning. The days of a set annual plan with quarterly 'tent poles' are long gone. Now marketers are on-call in real-time, making decisions and plan changes daily based on results and real-time learning.

What can agencies do to be better partners, and earn a greater share of trust from brand builders?

Trust, strategy and results are at the core of a great agency-client relationship. It’s important to have great work, but that won’t happen without a deep understanding of the business and strategy at hand.

Agencies need to understand that CMOs and client-side marketers have a lot on their plates. When I was on the agency side, I over-inflated my perception of the role of the agency and its importance to success. When I was a CMO, I needed an agency that was focused on success but realized it was only one piece of a very complicated puzzle. I believe agencies that stay up on new trends, technology and production techniques are the ones that will survive.

See Porter Gale at Now Next Why in Los Angeles on May 10. Tickets available at

Now Next Why