Morris's role shows Publicis in pursuit of the impossible

Whoever advised Derek Morris on his shirt for last week's photo shoot in Campaign to accompany news of his move to Publicis was spot on, writes Dominic Mills.

Tieless, obviously, to denote confident informality; button-down collar denoting, er, a button-down attitude to underline that he's a man who won't waste his clients' media budgets; a complicated check pattern showing a man who knows how to fill out the boxes on a media schedule; and stylish enough to hint at creativity, but in a sort of controlled, unthreatening way.

Sadly his PR adviser must have gone AWOL because one of Morris' quotes to the trade press lacked the same care and precision. Explaining the move, he said: "Publicis has realised that the media agenda has moved on and that it should lie at the heart of communications thinking." Perhaps Morris is still trying to be nice to his new employer by suggesting it possesses laser-like insight. However, as most of us know (and Morris, one of the industry's smartest brains, better than most) the media agenda moved on a while back -- at least a decade ago, some might say. Still, it's good to know that some people think it's never too late to close the stable door even if the horse has long since bolted.

Because that, at heart, is what this is about: attempts by agencies to put themselves back at the centre of the communications process. Don't get me wrong. I've nothing against this ambition. Back in the days when full service meant media and creative under the same roof and the same ownership, I believed that that was the holy grail. In an ideal world, they still would be working and thinking together under the same roof. But the world has moved on.

So I am sceptical when agencies wake up and say it's time for media and creative to be brought closer together. After all, it was their own prejudice, disinterest and ignorance that allowed the media side to split off in the first place.

That's history, however. So while the Publicis move is an interesting one, and you can see why they might want to do it, what may be desirable is not necessarily possible. (Note, by the way, that Rick Bendel, the chairman of the Publicis UK group, is a former media director himself). I say that because, in a nutshell, no media agency worth its salt is going to want to hand back power or communications strategy to the creative agency. In the years since they gained their independence, they've more than filled the vacuum left by the creative agencies when the latter gave up on media.

One last thought: what does Publicis' hiring of Morris say about its faith in the strategic communications abilities of its own media agencies, which are the very ones Morris has to work with? Not a lot.

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