Fine words about the need for clients to relax their unbending attitude to agency account conflicts are meaningless unless they are translated into action. So it's to be hoped that the call by the body representing Europe's agencies for a relaxation of the hard-line stance by advertisers turns out to be more than wishful thinking.
Traditionally, clients have been unyielding about conflict, fearing that plans will be betrayed to competitors, that the agency's loyalty will not be complete and that they may not get the best team on their business unless they insist on exclusivity.
That attitude might have been OK when a bank, a building society and a life assurance company might have happily shared the same agency. It isn't today because all of these compete for the same customers and agencies must constantly weigh up the pros and cons of taking a piece of business that may put them out of bounds to several other categories.
What's increasingly obvious is that the old, uncompromising line about conflict can no longer be held. Even Malcolm Earnshaw, the director-general of ISBA, the advertisers' trade body, while insisting that conflict policy must be a matter for individual members admits that 'this is a matter we can't hide from'.
The fact that advertising giants such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever have softened their approach to conflict is indicative of a changed environment that many other clients will have to recognise. Certainly, they can't continue having it both ways. Especially not in Europe where agencies cannot trade exclusivity for huge client budgets as their US counterparts can.
At the same time, there is good reason to believe that client fears about conflict are exaggerated. Many think nothing of entering agreements to make, package and distribute each other's products. And what agency would want to damage its reputation and trustworthiness by leaking the plans of one client to another?
The European Association of Communications Agencies suggests the answer lies in agreements under which agencies undertake to ensure a client's commercial security in exchange for being allowed to handle competing business in countries or market sectors in which the client has no presence.
Whatever the solution, it's clear that without a more realistic approach, clients will succeed only in enfeebling their agency networks. If that happens, everybody loses.
Sorrell must have a plan for Tempus
Now that WPP has established MindShare and acquired The Media Edge, Martin Sorrell's reasons for buying an extra pounds 4 million Tempus shares last week are less than clear. Unless, that is, Sorrell's aim is to rile Tempus chiefs, unsettle one of his key rivals in the upstream media arena and make a smart, but uncharacteristically minor, investment for WPP. Either that or, perhaps, a takeover is imminent.