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Opinion: Integration or otherwise, the same dangers apply

However you dress it up, M&C Saatchi's restructure looks like a major step towards an integrated offering, despite the protestations of Tim Duffy, the group's chief executive, that it's nothing of the kind. It's a similar story at TBWA, which is pulling all its UK subsidiaries under one roof under the title of TBWA\MediaArts London.

Both groups are clearly eager not to court charges of control freakery, pointing out that their operating divisions will retain their individualities and will be bound together more by a common philosophy rather than a heavy-handed holding company.

Their stances are unsurprising. Staff are understandably loyal to the respective agencies for which they work and there are dangers of a significant effect on morale should they feel they are being press-ganged into working for some faceless marcoms machine. Clients also must be mollified and reassured that what may be a long-standing relationship with a particular agency won't be affected.

Yet there can be little doubt that integration is the name of the game. It has been so for some time and the global recession has given it a fresh impetus as corporations slash their spend and agency networks adapt their offerings to carve out the biggest possible slices of a shrinking cake.

If networks really can offer seamless integration, then the advantages are obvious. For one thing, there's the opportunity to offer bespoke communications solutions to clients. For another, it offers the chance for more cross-referrals of business between operating subsidiaries.

But integration only works if agency group staff truly respect each other and don't push self-serving agendas. Also, cross-selling can seem like hard-selling if done too aggressively, and clients will react against it. What's more, it's a rare agency group that can claim to offer "best in breed" across all the communication disciplines. Talk to many senior marketing directors and it's clear most still want to cherry-pick to get the best solutions, even if it costs more money to do so. They'll need much convincing to change their minds.

Creative charges carry on Devito legacy

Mick Devito, who died earlier this month aged just 62, has left behind some legacy. Not only was he responsible for a large body of memorable work but for giving a number of creative stars-in-waiting their big breaks. What's more, he came from an era that regarded craft skills important - and ensured his charges valued them too. He'll be much missed.

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