Media Perspective: Naked's new get-up shows how comms planning evolved

By Ian Darby, ian.darby@haymarket.com, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 28 November 2008 12:00AM

Since its launch eight years ago, Naked Communications has always had to suffer its share of jibes, mainly to the effect that its approach was all "Emperor's new clothes" - lacking substance - and that its team had no strength in depth. But, to my mind, it's proved to be a great success story.

Admittedly, there have been some low moments along the way, but to have built up successful operations in Sydney, New York and Amsterdam, it must have done something right.

The problem it now faces is that exploding toilet stunts look a bit old hat in the digital age. So where does its London agency offering go if it's to stay alive? The answer, it seems, is down the road of creative execution, following the appointment last week of Malcolm Green, the former Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners executive creative director.

It needed to do something. Naked's UK operation has looked a bit threadbare against the firepower of the larger media agencies that stole its clothes and it's had a tough old time for the past couple of years. The agency has just had its second restructure within a year, with the managing director, Chris Green, stepping to one side for Jane Geraghty, formerly of Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners in New York.

Naked was acquired by the Australian group Photon back in February and this, at the time, raised as many questions as it provided answers. But the Photon deal, and associated growth targets, may explain the move into creative execution and the extra income that this can provide.

Naked's move looks certain to lead to attacks from the ad agency community with which it initially worked so closely (media agencies were the ones that felt threatened by its early success). Yet, while things may get a bit lonely out on planet Naked, it would be patronising to write off its new positioning when it can still call on the strategic firepower of the likes of Will Collin and Ivan Pollard.

On a broader level, you could see this as bad news for the health of the wider comms planning sector. Naked's change in direction perhaps indicates how difficult it is to achieve scale and clout in this area. The recent "deal" that saw Michaelides & Bednash move into Mindshare shows how tough the market can get for independents unable to clinch retained business.

This is not necessarily depressing, just a reminder that communications planning, call it what you will, has evolved. And it's not only the big MediaComs and Mindshares that are impressing. Agencies bounding out of the mid-market, such as Mediaedge:cia and Vizeum, and, God forbid, media owners, are also proving more than capable of fresh media thinking allied to content delivery. Which is undoubtedly exciting.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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