The largest-scale recent example of this was Sony Ericsson's decision to ask its ad agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, to implement a strategy conceived by the branding agency Wolff Olins; something that led BBH to resign the business, because it felt it compromised its ability to do great work.
The truth is, an agency of any discipline is capable of coming up with the best strategic idea. Good ideas can come from anywhere, something argued convincingly by John Hegarty at last week's Internet Advertising Bureau Conference. Traditionally, it is the ad agencies who have held the keys to the strategy cupboard, and, let's be completely clear about this, still handle it in the lion's share of strategic briefs.
In some cases, this is because the agency has managed a particular account for many years. A long-term relationship as intense as the one between an ad agency and a client will imbue said agency with a deep understanding of the brand and its needs. For as long as the agency is in good health, this is a highly desirable arrangement for any client company.
Agencies also hold more cards in many instances, because they will be implementing much of the creative based on the strategy. The execution of a strategy by the agency that conceived it will be true; but some of its meaning risks being lost in translation when handed on to a third party.
But if ad agencies enjoy an advantage because of creative implementation, media agencies also have one because of their expert knowledge of how and when consumers digest these strategies. MediaCom's Sue Unerman makes a compelling case for the role that media agencies play in conceiving strategy (page 25).
The debate over strategy indicates a full-service offering might well be the most effective solution to any client.