Some people just can’t help making mischief and Felix Velarde,
co-founder of Head New Media and the UK new-media industry’s very own big
mouth, is certainly one of them.
”I don’t want to be a McCann-Erickson,” he said recently, on the occasion
of his agency’s minority acquisition by the Lowe Group. ”I want to be a
BBH or a Lowe’s.” Totally unmindful of the fact that McCann’s is a sister
Interpublic agency of his new equity partner, the comment was classically
The real target, however, was a company Velarde sees as one of his biggest
rivals in the UK new-media scene.
We’ve all heard it said that AKQA is the McCann’s of new media. Now, by
aligning himself with Lowe’s, Velarde has underlined Head’s credentials as
a creatively-led new-media company that challenges clients’ thinking.
But, of course, a positioning isn’t a positioning unless it’s defined in
opposition to another positioning - in this case, a process-led sweatshop
that slavishly delivers what the client demands. This is very unfair to
AKQA, not to mention McCann’s, but who cares about fairness in a
In truth, Head and AKQA are just different - underlined by the
restructuring of AKQA last month. Just as Head was gravitating towards the
ad agency world, AKQA was opening a business consultancy arm. The aim is
to use its technological expertise to help change the way its clients do
It doesn’t sound sexy, but the margins are enough to make all those stuck
in the communications industry weep. If all goes to plan, some of the
profits will be ploughed back into AKQA’s communications division, forming
a beautiful virtuous circle. Meanwhile, Head will extend its remit beyond
PC-based media, working with Lowe’s clients on exciting interactive TV
Who will win? Both. Head will do what it does best as part of a top
international network, while AKQA develops its fiercely independent
business in the only way that makes sense. Now where’s the mischief in
John Owen is the editor of Campaign Interactive.