CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/MEDIA STRATEGY - Can an HHCL-Bridgeworks marriage stand the test of time? Anna Griffiths asks

The announcement last week that HHCL & Partners is taking the strategic consultancy Bridgeworks in-house sparked some wry smiles in the advertising industry.

The announcement last week that HHCL & Partners is taking the

strategic consultancy Bridgeworks in-house sparked some wry smiles in

the advertising industry.



Surely, this was HHCL fashioning some sort of circle - the birth of the

strategic media consultancy Michaelides & Bednash, for example, in which

HHCL had a 50 per cent stake before M&B’s managing partners bought out

HHCL’s ownership in 1998. Now Bridgeworks has been scooped into the

fold.



Axel Chaldecott, the creative director of HHCL, agrees that there could

be some confusion about the agency’s intent. ’I can see people from

outside saying we’ve reintegrated media in-house, but it’s much more

than that.



Media strategy used to be more about the proprietorial way of maximising

your media spend. This is something different. In the fragmenting media

world, there’s a danger you will get a fragmented message coming across,

especially with other companies vying for bits of the overall

budget.’



Simon King and Simon Calvert, the co-founders of Bridgeworks, will work

with project teams within HHCL to help the client and the creative team

steer a cohesive media strategy. It’s early days, but Chaldecott says

that in the long term: ’I don’t think it will just be the two of

them.’



With the proliferation of media, there has been much talk about how

creative agencies need to draw in the media process from the beginning,

or at least, much earlier on in the advertising process. In the past,

some agencies have brought in a media director but these marriages have,

in general, been short lived. So is the union of HHCL and Bridgeworks

set to be a long-term trend for the industry?



Ivan Pollard, a founding partner of the media communications consultancy

Unity, says it is not a new phenomenon but is becoming more

widespread.



’It’s an acknowledgement of the importance of media and a long-term

trend. Creative agencies will all have to start getting back in the

media process, whether that’s working with companies such as M&B and

Unity or bringing media in-house.’



There has recently been another example of matchmaking between media and

creative with the creation of the BBH breakaway Soul. Kevin Brown, the

former media director at Starcom Motive, joined as a founding partner to

direct the media discipline. Brown observes: ’To make media truly a part

of agency culture you have a director with a media background talking

media and creative language in the same breath. The danger is that if

you tag it on, it’s much harder than starting from scratch.’



Graham Bednash, a founding partner of M&B, believes that HHCL has a

culture that will nurture Bridgeworks’ presence rather than stifle it.

’They have a collaborative approach so they can manage that kind of

thing very well.



The centre of gravity revolves around creative people, so it works best

for clients to have media separate from creative, enabling them to come

at it from a completely different angle.’



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