CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/MEDIA-CREATIVE SPLIT - Is COI's media pitch proof that 'full service' has had its day, Jeremy White asks

COI Communications has called time on its creative agencies'

strategic planning and called in the specialists.



It is far from the first significant client to do this, but the move

will again raise the question of whether creatives should wave the white

flag and stop attempting to play the 'full-service' game.



Peter Buchanan, COI's director of marketing communications, puts it

plainly: 'Creative agencies' investment in strategic planning is

starting to lag.' Starting? Some would say it never was a commitment on

the part of creative agencies to develop a top-class planning

department.



'The industry shot itself in the foot,' Simon Clemmow, the departing

chief executive of TBWA/London, says. 'One of the biggest mistakes the

ad industry has made is divorcing media from creative. People are only

just starting to realise that the two should work together.'



The rise of the specialists has been due to increased media

fragmentation, and therefore the need for sophisticated media planning.

'Clients are further ahead of the game than the agencies - they know

this is necessary.



This is why people like Buchanan are saying 'we want our suppliers to be

able to reflect the way we need to work', and I totally agree with

that,' Clemmow says.



'Strategic communications agencies have better resources to deal with

the increasingly complex media marketplace,' Buchanan says. 'The reason

they are better is they have the scale to invest in people and systems

or they are solely devoting themselves to communications strategy. And

we need to access the best agencies.'



Clemmow too thinks that creative agencies can't cut it and that they

need to be as good as the specialists to bring it in-house. But in a big

agency this means a huge investment: 'Planning departments are expensive

things - you need senior people. And agencies are conservative - they

look creative and wacky but they are quite departmentalised and

conservative in the way they work.'



But he equally sees problems in dealing with a separate company for

planning.



'They are better people but it still suffers from being divorced from

the creative process,' he argues. 'To have a media company down the road

working at arm's length can become a real pain. It shouldn't be like

that.



For media and creative to be a part of the agency is essential - but

it's very hard to re-engineer it back in when it has been gone for so

long.'



The alternative may be to forge more effective links between media

specialists and their creative partners. 'You don't have to house the

media people in the same building as the creative department,' Mark

Cranmer, the chief executive of Starcom Motive for Europe, the Middle

East and Africa, argues . 'It's the same with direct marketing.'



As Cranmer points out, communication within full-service agencies is far

from guaranteed. 'I've worked in advertising agencies and you can go

several years without the media department talking to anyone from the

creative department,' he recalls.



Therefore, planners and creatives may communicate better separately -

the way you talk to your parents more once you've moved out. At least

COI will be hoping it works that way.



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