The ad column - Creative haven or grim sweatshop? Vive la difference!

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.

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

Velardian.



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

competitive marketplace?



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

business.



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

projects.



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

that?





John Owen is the editor of Campaign Interactive.



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