The emergence of the media independent came as the industry realised that strategy and buying was a money-making art in itself. It was also a reflection of the growing alienation between creatives, who believed a great idea was powerful enough to drive a brand forward on its own, and financially astute media people who were seen as creative killjoys.
As the feature on page 24 points out, the separateness of the functions mattered little when the 30-second TV spot was seen as the universal cure for all client ills. Not any more. As media fragments, an increasing number of influential voices are ruing the estrangement. Carol Fisher, the former chief executive of COI Communications, was one who blamed the industry's failure to relate creative and media for its inability to deliver effectively.
It's a bit too soon to suggest the gap has been bridged. Nevertheless, there are signs the industry is beginning to reconfigure itself in line with the changing communications landscape. Whether this is a precursor to the revival of full service is a moot point. What's certain is that full service, if and when it returns, will not be as we knew it.
Creative agencies taking on a media resource will always find it hard to prevent their heritage getting in the way of a truly communications-neutral solution to a client's problem. The same holds true of media independents that have begun bolting on creative services to their offering. What's more, shops with full-service aspirations will not only have difficulty finding media specialists with the necessary breadth of knowledge but in re-educating their own people. Many senior account people don't know media and many creatives don't want to.
But despite these obstacles, the trend is welcome. As agencies have become over-specialised, so client complaints about the failure of their roster agencies to work together have increased, along with their scepticism about the objectivity of the advice being offered them. Clients don't want agencies telling them how to run their businesses. But they do want great creative ideas and to be told how those ideas can be communicated effectively through a multiplicity of channels.
With the economy still down in the dumps, the need for agencies to increase income from clients has never been more vital. Thankfully, the penny seems to be dropping.