Twice in the past two weeks I have offered myself up to a couple of
full-service agency media departments for credentials presentations.
While being different sorts of agencies, they both nevertheless preached
the same message: in the future creative and media must work hand in
hand and the best way to ensure that is to offer media on a full-service
basis. And they wouldn’t, both maintained stoutly, pitch for third-party
media-only business. Oh yeah?
Indeed, one passionate defender of the full-service creed, Lowe Howard-
Spink, took full-page ads in the trade press recently trumpeting its
victory in the Media Week awards - making the point, in other words,
that a full-service shop had beaten off the competition.
So, I must confess, I find myself surprised that this issue is still
alive. I thought, in this day and age, even the most ‘creatively’ driven
of agencies had conceded that media was important, and the thing was to
be good at it (by which I mean offering up clever and distinctive media
suggestions), as well as to be big (by which I mean buying cheap). In
other words, it was all about the ability to claim to be a media
specialist, irrespective of whether that was part of a full-service
strategy, as part of a media dependant, or part of a joint venture with
a media independent (and I exclude media independents on their own here
since they are, by definition, media specialists).
Now, given that there are still people out there arguing the merits of
full service, is this something that will sway clients? Will the
pendulum swing back towards full service from the specialists? I don’t
know. As far as I can see, the argument is built around one salient
point: the so-called synergy that comes from housing creatives and media
together so that execution and placement work in harmony. But for every
persuasive example of how wonderful this all is (Orange, Vauxhall, the
Economist and Boddingtons (pre-launch of Motive)), you can produce
campaigns that demonstrate how it can work equally well down a different
route. Look at the current Radio 1 campaign (Chiat Day and PHD), Nissan
Micra (TBWA and Eurospace) and even the early small-space BT phone
change ads (Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Zenith). As far as I can see,
the argument simply isn’t proven either way, but what worries me about
the full-service camp is its insistence that it won’t go for media-only
business. I understand why it says that - once you do, out goes your
entire strategy - but I don’t find it credible. The natural desire to
get bigger is one reason, the other that full service condemns agencies
to fishing in a pretty small media pond.
Indeed, this is a point that the chief executive of one such devoutly
full-service agency, overheard in a West End hotel bar one night last
week by a passing Campaign reporter, has obviously realised. So, my
friend, will you tell everybody about your decision to go for media-only
business, or do you want to leave it to us?