ISBA’s highly regarded director of consultancy and best practice, Debbie Morrison – a woman not shy of saying what she thinks – told the Financial Times that media agencies haven’t got their clients’ best interests at heart any more. You’ll read in this issue that quite a few well-informed people agree with her, though who’s to blame is moot. Gideon Spanier’s assessment of the issue concludes: "Agencies have scaled up to get better prices for their clients from media owners. They have also had to seek new – and sometimes less transparent – ways to make money as advertisers have squeezed agency margins. The result is that trust keeps falling."
It’s easy to see the furore around ISBA’s initiative as simply the latest conflict in an ongoing battle between clients and agencies. And there’s plenty of industry bodies (with hefty membership fees to justify), consultants, conference vendors and, yes, journalists like me who make hay from addressing the schism between clients and agencies, fuelling a climate of fear and mistrust. But while it all makes for good headlines and some self-serving but thrillingly inappropriate soundbites, let’s not get carried away with the scent of war. Yes, there are very real tensions when naïvety, greed, short-termism or desperation are allowed to get in the way of productive collaboration, but our industry is awash with evidence of wonderfully rewarding partnerships where client and agency work together to create tangible business success for both parties.
Perhaps – let’s hope – ISBA’s salvo will generate some open debate and allow a frank assessment of the price/value/reward continuum that underpins the most effective client/agency engagements. These are certainly the engagements we’ll be focusing on from now on. For the past few months, Campaign has been working on a new positioning that is designed to recognise that the very best, most creative and most effective brand-building ideas come when clients and agencies work intuitively together, where respect is mutual and so is success. And we haven’t been short of examples of true partnerships and stories of genuine, effective and exhilarating collaborations.
Next week sees the debut of this new Campaign, on campaignlive.co.uk from Monday and in a new-look magazine on Thursday. We aim to be the place that brave, innovative and collaborative marketers find inspiration alongside their agency and media owner partners.