"The end of the 30-second ad is nigh" has become one of the most overused statements in advertising history. But it does contain an element, if only an element, of truth.
It is this element of truth that has inspired Clemmow Hornby Inge to form a 50:50 joint venture with Naked, called Naked Inside. They are two of the hottest agency brands in the UK right now, so the venture deserves further analysis. As Bob Wootton, the director of media affairs at ISBA, points out: "I think other agencies should sit up and take notice because it is CHI and Naked that are doing it."
Naked's positioning as an independent agency that supplies communications strategies has attracted a number of top-grade clients. Rather than develop a media strategy, Naked might recommend that a client suspend its ad campaign and divert the cash to customer services, for instance. Which is why Naked's recommendations are not always in an advertising agency's interest.
However, because its strategies are in demand from some of the UK's biggest advertisers, and Naked adopts a creative approach, many ad agencies are finding that it is still in their interests to work with Naked. Enter CHI.
This is one of those deals where everyone benefits. Naked Inside is an extra income stream for both. Naked - which is part-owned by Mother - has been looking for a creative partner for some time, and was attracted by CHI's strategic credentials. The CHI founder Simon Clemmow has been looking to cement the agency's media strategy since it was founded 18 months ago.
Naked has agreed not to form similar partnerships with other creative agencies in the future. However, it will continue its less formal, more project-based relationships as before.
Will Collin, a partner at Naked, says: "For way too long, the development of media strategy has been in complete isolation from communications and creative ideas. A gradual estrangement from the physical separation has led to a cultural divide where big media companies are driving profits through efficiencies and ad agencies are sticking to their knitting of creating great ads, but not really having their finger on the pulse of great communications ideas."
CHI will pitch for new business with Naked Inside, but will not try to foist its services on to existing clients - a decision that will reduce any perceived threat felt by incumbent media planning agencies.
CHI's founding strategy is to develop what it terms "big ideas" and it says that Naked Inside will supply a broader range of outlets to bring that idea to life. Another CHI founding partner, Johnny Hornby, says: "It was lamentable that the media people left the creative process as full-service agencies were abandoned. But this is better. Instead of there being four options - press, outdoor, TV, radio - the client will have 40."
Most prominent UK agencies are looking at means of incorporating media strategy at an early stage of their creative strategy. Publicis hired Unity's Derek Morris as its chief executive, while Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy has Hal Pearson as its in-house media strategist. Hornby, however, feared that appointing a full-time media strategist to work from CHI's offices wouldn't work: "The person needs to be attached to the media world. An in-house person in a year's time would become one of us - he would end up being an account planner."
Naked Inside will be based at Naked's offices. The agencies are looking to appoint someone to run it. It will be staffed by Naked employees, but CHI ones will also dip in and out in a move designed to expose them to its thinking.
There is true client demand for the type of solutions Naked Inside will offer. Paul Philips, the media director at the AAR, says: "They are marking the newer approach to business."
But most media agency stalwarts are underwhelmed by Naked Inside. They don't deny it's a good idea, but see such offers as operating on the fringes of the marketing world. Jim Marshall, the head of the IPA's media policy group, says it has been done before, citing Bartle Bogle Hegarty's deal with John Ayling. "Very few good ideas are new ideas," he says.
Wootton, too, warns that it's not anything to get too excited about: "However swift their media plan, there will be elements that are difficult to give to media owners. The media market is worth £9 billion a year and if it ain't broke, why fix it? The emergence of small, clever companies may have a marginal impact.
"They will be able to do things on the edges but the way media is traded means they won't operate at the centre."
Nevertheless, as two of the media and creative agencies of the moment, CHI's and Naked's decision to go into business together will add to both parties. They are a good cultural fit, and they are responding to the needs of clients. Both factors should keep them at the top of advertisers' pitchlists.