Asda recently handed both its creative and media accounts to Publicis Groupe
Asda recently handed both its creative and media accounts to Publicis Groupe
A view from Andrew Stephens

Why creative and media agencies are better apart - unless you're Asda

Goodstuff's founding partner argues that media agencies should sit outside creative agency management.

The recent news of the MullenLowe Mediahub offering, VCCP buying Adconnection and most recently, the coup to end all coups of Publicis Groupe snaring Asda’s creative and media accounts has once again sparked the debate around what the best way for media and creative agencies to work together is.

Are we better connected under one P&L in joint ventures or are we better joined by culture and vision?

It’s a question I’m asked a lot, possibly due to having learnt the media ropes at the full-service Saatchi & Saatchi, spending time working in all of the above structures and now responsible for many creative agency partnerships here at Goodstuff Communications.

My answer, which is always based on the assumption that the client wants category defining media work, is that media and creative are better apart (Asda is an exception to this which I will return to).

Very simply put, better media work is created when it sits outside creative agency management for the following reasons:

1. Being independent of a central creative contract means the media agency simply has to work harder to ensure the work is always the best it can be. There are no hiding places or protecting each other behind closed doors. Our name is on it, which means the media product has to stand on its own two legs. 

2. As Sir John Hegarty said at the Guardian Changing Media Summit: "collaboration leads to consensus which leads to normality". He is of course right, particularly for the quality of the media product if you are operating under a single contract as creative will always, like it or not, lead the relationship and media will support and suffer.

3. Friction can be a powerful force if managed in the right way. If you have motivated agencies that are encouraged to be competitive, the outcome will be that much better. Being subservient to creative lead agency is a sure-fire way of media being the last five charts in presentation again.

I said I would come back to Asda as I think that’s a different case. I have to confess to not knowing how they intend to work but for a £95 million behemoth of a retailer like Asda, media and performance measurement will be so central and fast moving that a single team does make more sense.

Furthermore, and knowing some of the Blue 449 personalities, I don’t see them being dominated by the creative agency one little bit. In fact, I’d be surprised if they weren’t leading the relationship. 

In summary, unless you’re Asda, and you want the best media and the best creative work, you should appoint a separate media and creative agency. Ideally, independent. 

Andrew Stephens is the founding partner at Goodstuff Communications.