OPINION: To stay independent is to limit a shop’s growth

By CHRIS CLARK, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 31 January 1997 12:00AM

Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson’s capitulation before the TBWA dollar appears to be yet another nail in the coffin of the independent, mid-sized agency. The prevailing wisdom is that there is no future for such agencies caught between the rock of giant multinationals and the hard place of the small independent shop. Not too controversial a thesis given recent agency history worldwide.

Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson’s capitulation before the TBWA dollar

appears to be yet another nail in the coffin of the independent,

mid-sized agency. The prevailing wisdom is that there is no future for

such agencies caught between the rock of giant multinationals and the

hard place of the small independent shop. Not too controversial a thesis

given recent agency history worldwide.



Then, along comes Mercedes with its lovely pounds 9 million budget,

rescuing BDDH, and appearing to disprove the theory. Surely there will

always be mid-sized clients such as Mercedes, who, having been slighted

by the local office of a multinational (in this case Leo Burnett

resigning Mercedes in the UK because of conflict with Fiat overseas),

will plump for the local alternative?



However, BDDH is not Simons Palmer, nor for that matter is it Howell

Henry Chaldecott Lury or Bartle Bogle Hegarty. It is at the small end of

that mid-range alongside Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters and, unlike that

agency, has been struggling to retain independence by keeping its

clients rather than growing through new business.



The truth about the middle ground is that there is no room for the

medium-sized agency that is desperate to be bigger. It is no longer

possible (as Howell Henry keeps finding out - Homepride, Fuji, Pepe and

Mazda) to grow organically to that next level. BBH and M&C Saatchi will

be the last UK agencies to do so. You can no longer win and retain the

size of business required because it will be centralised regionally. If

it is not, then the major domestic client may itself become part of some

multinational conglomerate (Mercury).



That’s why all eyes are now on Howell Henry and BBH. It’s not just that

they are the best independent agencies, they are the largest

medium-sized agencies that do not appear content to stay medium-sized.

Of course, making the kind of money Paul Simons’ mob has just made may

be an added attraction.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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