Editorial: Adland's adaptability is tested in turbulent times

Sometimes the economic climate can seem so harsh and unforgiving as to make most of adland want to rush to the nearest panic room, slam the door and wait for the storm to pass. April has been a month when the turbulence appears to be buffeting agencies between a rock and a hard place.

Helping make the weather vane spin is Willott Kingston Smith's warning that spiralling staff costs are significantly damaging advertising agency profits. Meanwhile, the latest IPA Bellwether Report suggests adspend is growing at its slowest rate for four years.

But let us not be in too much of a rush simply to nail up the shutters.

Look at what has been happening more closely and the evidence suggests the industry is not being blown off course by a hurricane, just experiencing the relentless wind of change. Although the Bellwether Report suggests depression, it actually reflects a communications business in transformation as clients increasingly forsake traditional media in favour of cheaper, more accountable alternatives.

For agencies having to cope with higher overheads and clients determined to drive costs lower, the challenge is tough, but not impossible. For a start, the communications world is not breaking apart, merely reconfiguring.

ITV is launching a platform to allow advertisers to run interactive campaigns simultaneously across satellite and terrestrial TV, as well as mobile and online; broadband is booming with 9.5 million users in the UK. Furthermore, MTV has just revealed plans to launch an online video-on-demand store, which will let broadband owners across Europe download shows, music videos, movie trailers and ads.

Taken together, these developments indicate a period of seismic change.

The best agencies recognise this and are reacting to it. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is setting up a joint venture with the US digital agency iChameleon to broaden its offering to current and would-be clients. Two years ago, Bartle Bogle Hegarty launched Leap Music to acquire copyright for and exploit musical soundtracks.

Necessity is the mother of invention: an old adage but, for today's marketing communicators, never more relevant.