COI Communications has called time on its creative agencies'
strategic planning and called in the specialists.
It is far from the first significant client to do this, but the move
will again raise the question of whether creatives should wave the white
flag and stop attempting to play the 'full-service' game.
Peter Buchanan, COI's director of marketing communications, puts it
plainly: 'Creative agencies' investment in strategic planning is
starting to lag.' Starting? Some would say it never was a commitment on
the part of creative agencies to develop a top-class planning
'The industry shot itself in the foot,' Simon Clemmow, the departing
chief executive of TBWA/London, says. 'One of the biggest mistakes the
ad industry has made is divorcing media from creative. People are only
just starting to realise that the two should work together.'
The rise of the specialists has been due to increased media
fragmentation, and therefore the need for sophisticated media planning.
'Clients are further ahead of the game than the agencies - they know
this is necessary.
This is why people like Buchanan are saying 'we want our suppliers to be
able to reflect the way we need to work', and I totally agree with
that,' Clemmow says.
'Strategic communications agencies have better resources to deal with
the increasingly complex media marketplace,' Buchanan says. 'The reason
they are better is they have the scale to invest in people and systems
or they are solely devoting themselves to communications strategy. And
we need to access the best agencies.'
Clemmow too thinks that creative agencies can't cut it and that they
need to be as good as the specialists to bring it in-house. But in a big
agency this means a huge investment: 'Planning departments are expensive
things - you need senior people. And agencies are conservative - they
look creative and wacky but they are quite departmentalised and
conservative in the way they work.'
But he equally sees problems in dealing with a separate company for
'They are better people but it still suffers from being divorced from
the creative process,' he argues. 'To have a media company down the road
working at arm's length can become a real pain. It shouldn't be like
For media and creative to be a part of the agency is essential - but
it's very hard to re-engineer it back in when it has been gone for so
The alternative may be to forge more effective links between media
specialists and their creative partners. 'You don't have to house the
media people in the same building as the creative department,' Mark
Cranmer, the chief executive of Starcom Motive for Europe, the Middle
East and Africa, argues . 'It's the same with direct marketing.'
As Cranmer points out, communication within full-service agencies is far
from guaranteed. 'I've worked in advertising agencies and you can go
several years without the media department talking to anyone from the
creative department,' he recalls.
Therefore, planners and creatives may communicate better separately -
the way you talk to your parents more once you've moved out. At least
COI will be hoping it works that way.