EDITORIAL: Greater synergy is a real client benefit

How will the industry view the return of Chris Thomas, the Abbott Mead Vickers group's prodigal son, to his spiritual home to run its DM arm, Proximity London?

Some might argue that the ousted Lowe chief executive has demoted himself, notwithstanding the fact he'll be running the UK's fourth-largest DM operation.

Others may feel he has landed a job of at least equal status to his last role. The most enlightened will welcome it as an acknowledgment of the need within communication groups for greater synergy between the disciplines.

The AMV group's success in harnessing its above- and below-the-line offerings to pitch for the Royal Mail's integrated communications brief and the TV Licencing assignment bear out the importance of this policy. It's not that clients are necessarily sold on the idea of integrated offerings. Indeed, many with experience in co-ordinating their communications remain sceptical about agency groups' ability to replicate it. But the demand for pitches by above-the-line agencies and their specialist affliliates are bound to increase as long as there are clear benefits.

There's no obvious way for agency groups to meet these requirements successfully: Saatchi & Saatchi offers one-stop shopping; AMV presents a line-up of specialist club agencies that combine to offer integrated solutions. It's not that either solution is better, just different. Which is probably just as well, since clients too are individuals with varying needs. COI Communications has a habit of calling combined above-the-line and DM pitches; others' requirements may not be the same.

Nevertheless, the appointment of Thomas at Proximity is to be welcomed.

For one thing, he can strengthen the alliance between the DM specialist and the agency where he worked for a decade and where he's still much respected. For another, his arrival will help break down advertising's self-imposed barriers separating above and below the line and which prove a perpetual hinderance to truly seamless communications.

That's not to say there's always a case for executives moving from above to below the line and vice versa. Clients go to specialist agencies because they're good at what they do. Nevertheless, some industry consultants feel that DM shops could win more business if they could offer more of the strategic thinking that senior managers such as Thomas can provide.

Certainly, his appointment marks a further step in the melding by agency groups of their marketing services. Surely, the next logical step must be to align media and creative more closely in the service of clients.

Not quite a return to full service, perhaps, but a logical extension of what's now happening.