Advertising agency sets up a PR arm. Hardly a new phenomenon. In recent years, Karmarama created Kaper and the gaffers of Golden Square added M&C Saatchi PR to their Talk PR spin-off.
But what makes Beattie McGuinness Bungay’s creation of Seven Dials so intriguing is the personnel involved. The consultancy, which began trading this month, will be run by Simon Kelner, the former managing director and editor of The Independent and one of Fleet Street’s dwindling herd of "big beasts". Also involved is Simon Walker, a former advisor to Buckingham Palace and Downing Street.
They link up with BMB’s forward-thinking Andrew McGuinness and Trevor Beattie, a man who understands the fundamental synergy between paid-for and earned media. "It’s about stories," Beattie points out. Indeed, powerful narrative has always been what separates the great brands from the good. Beattie learned this with his work for French Connection, Wonderbra and New Labour – where PR worked in synergy with ad craft.
But things have moved on since then. One of the biggest changes in marcoms has been the seismic shift in power away from traditional broadcast advertising towards democratised, conversational campaigns.
Globalised rolling news and social media require brands to listen, and respond, to consumers in real time
It is no longer good enough to create a great story. Globalised rolling news and social media require brands to listen, and respond, to consumers in real time, within a framework of consistently ethical operations. This is truly integrated thinking deriving from a brand’s DNA.
All of which explains the scramble by big marketing services groups to buy up "PR" expertise. Results International’s most recent report reveals 17 PR shops were snapped up in the first quarter of this year alone, second only to website and build acquisitions.
So the big challenge for ad agencies is to integrate this comms expertise and nous with their traditional strengths of "upstream" brand strategy and big creative ideas. The holy grail is to combine the best thinking in strategic reputation management with game-changing insights and content, and to make all this relevant to a digitised world. Some companies – Unilever, Diageo – are now knocking on that door, while others – Barclays – are walking up the garden path.
But this can only be achieved when the best consultants from these disciplines gain access to clients’ executive committees. Indeed, one could argue this vision must be bought at chief executive level.
It is no easy task and may, ultimately, require serious scale on the agency side. But one can only start with the right vision and talent. This is the potentially golden gauntlet laid down before Kelner, McGuinness et al.
Danny Rogers will be chairing a panel session at next month's Media360 entitled 'In Pursuit Of Integration', in a panel featuring Jennelle Tilling vice president marketing KFC UK and Ireland, Thomas Laranjo managing director Total Media, Cameron Hulett executive director, EMEA
Undertone and Gavin Stirrat managing director, EMEA Millennial Media.
More details of Media360 being held in London on 6-7 June at http://www.media-360.co.uk/ For draft programme details click here.