Is This What Happens When Independent Agencies Get Bought Out?

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What happens when a scrappy and successful independent agency gives in to the seductive promises of selling to a corporate master?

According to Zulu Alpha Kilo, a zealously independent Canadian agency, everything goes to shit.

Or at least that’s what happens to poor Billy, proprietor of Billy’s Lemonade Stand, in the agency’s cautionary parable about the sacrifices that often follow a sale.

While Billy’s buyers are described as a New York-based holding company a la Omnicom or IPG, the video’s satirical crosshairs are also probably aimed at the massive global consultancies that have been buying up agencies in recent years—namely Accenture Interactive, which bought high-profile independent agency Droga5 earlier this year.

That acquisition’s long-term impact has yet to be seen, but Zulu Alpha Kilo paints a ominous vision for the future of agencies that go corporate. In the video, we see Billy’s initial joy at his cash windfall (8X multiple!) soon sour as his lemonade stand’s new owners force him to use cheaper ingredients and smaller servings while increasing his prices by 10 times and firing his sister (who, sadly, just didn’t add value).

“Everything about Billy sucks now, really,” sums up his most loyal customer.

But perhaps there’s a ray of hope at the end of this dark tunnel of acquisition. We see Billy and sister Tammy rekindling their working relationship to co-found a new startup.

Will he learn from his past mistakes, or will he be sued to the curb for breach of noncompete? Here’s hoping they can at least win a Cannes Lemonade Lion or two before things fall apart again.

The video continues a Zulu Alpha Kilo tradition of making short films that mock what the agency sees as the ad industry’s most confounding trends. The spot was even directed by the agency’s founder and CCO, Zak Mroueh.

In previous installments, the agency railed against creating spec work for potential clients and the most soul-crushing aspects of the RFP process (a scenario in which a consultancy came out on top by saying “data” a lot and eviscerating its rates to please procurement).

You can check out the older videos below, followed by credits for the new short.

Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo
Creative Director: Zak Mroueh
Art Director: Michael Siegers
Writer: Jonah Flynn
Producer: Colleen Allen
Account Team: Kayla MacDonald
Production House: Zulubot
Director: Zak Mroueh
Director of Photography: Paul Steinberg
Exec Producer: Tom Evans
Editor: Jessie Posthumus
Audio Mixer: Rob Morrice
Casting Director: Jigsaw, Shasta Lutz
Transfer: Alter Ego, Eric Whipp
Audio: Dino Cuzzolino

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