Editorial: Nitro's new model may shake adland

Is Chris Clarke's Nitro about to put a bomb under conventional agency structures as it extends its operation from Australasia to Europe?

For some time now, the Australian has been snapping at the heels of the agency leviathans. Clarke has already plundered the US Twix brief from Grey and threatens to muscle in on McCann Erickson's share of Unilever's ice-cream business.

Clarke's offering is a compelling one. International clients needing fast-turnaround creative work are his target. Meanwhile, he aims to maximise efficiency by basing creatives and planners in clients' offices. What's more, his timing is apposite, as increasing numbers of multinationals show willingness to work with small and hungry hotshops and question the traditional agency networks' ability to deliver what they need.

Coca-Cola has been in the vanguard of this movement and others have followed.

Unilever works with Mother and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, while Procter & Gamble executives now appear en masse at Cannes to keep abreast of creative trends.

Even the ultra-conservative Mars has drastically scaled down its assignments at Grey, generally regarded as the creative weak link on its roster.

In the world's advertising factories, alarm bells are ringing. Clients are no longer willing to sit across the table from a phalanx of agency people. Nor can they understand the inordinate amount of time taken to produce creative work they need by yesterday.

As Paul Shearer, who will head Nitro's UK office, points out, generously staffed agencies that can't meet clients' needs will have to change. Not least because cost pressures and the need for big creative ideas may well lead more clients to offload the bulk of their promotional activities on to their agencies. This trend may well be the catalyst for change.

Some suggest this will result in the emergence of highly imaginative agency staff who can devise high-quality ideas and plan communication strategies almost as if they were employed by the client.

Perhaps these new-style agencies will outsource creative work. Meanwhile, their focus may be on developing the overall communication idea and the media briefs, having been given full access to the client's commercial data. Maybe remuneration will depend on mutually agreed client business goals, with specialist independent auditors available to ensure fair play.

The result: cost savings for clients; more potential business for agencies prepared to tear up the rule book and start again.

So which top-20 creative shop will take the lead by closing its creative department and using dedicated freelancers instead? Don't hold your breath.

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