EDITORIAL: BBH shows way for agencies' diversity

The link between two seemingly unconnected stories on the pages of last week's Campaign may not be immediately apparent. Yet, on closer inspection, it's possible to see that they're intertwined.

One concerns the latest findings of Bellwether, the IPA's quarterly barometer, which expects little improvement to the industry's fortunes for the foreseeable future. The other is the news that Bartle Bogle Hegarty is to extend itself beyond conventional advertising with the launch of a music publishing arm, a promotional video production division and a magazine.

Consider these stories in tandem and the conclusion is obvious: in a world where weak sales and falling profits are continuing to force down client budgets, agencies must look increasingly to alternative revenue streams.

The BBH initiative takes place against the background of a media landscape that's changing dramatically. As the mass appeal of TV advertising wanes, agencies need to take control of a larger proportion of what they produce.

That means providing opportunities to sponsor or even create something that can be sold on to clients.

BBH has recognised what should be blindingly obvious: that brands don't exist solely within the confines of advertising but are part of a much wider world where communication with consumers may take a variety of forms.

Programming, sponsorship and music tie-ups are among the most obvious.

Take BBH's latest TV spot for Lynx deodorant. The film was built around a dance and the music went to number one in the UK charts.

Harnessing the power of music can turn everybody into a winner. Music and product work to make each other famous, the agency gets to benefit from a new revenue stream and the client is presented with new and exciting ways to engage consumers above the usual ad clutter.

Agencies have made bundles of money for others down the years through their ability to make commercial soundtracks as famous as the brands being advertised. But their efforts have rarely been properly rewarded. Now, with CD sales in serious decline, the power of multi- million-pound campaigns to drive music sales is huge.

This and the other activities BBH is involving itself in highlights the importance to communications groups of exploring other sources of income.

The music industry's plight is already working to the benefit of agencies.

What other sectors could be opened up to everyone's benefit?