EDITORIAL: Can smaller network shops compete?

On the face of it, the over-supplied global communications market needs another agency network about as much as Imelda Marcos needs a new pair of shoes.

On the face of it, the over-supplied global communications market needs another agency network about as much as Imelda Marcos needs a new pair of shoes.

But that's what it's about to get with this week's announcement by WPP of a fourth network linking the 14 Conquest offices in Europe with Batey Advertising in Singapore and the Seattle agency Cole & Weber.

Martin Sorrell's belief is that, as communications groups consolidate, gaps in the middle ground will open up for the modest-spending international advertisers that were debarred from the bigger networks by the size of their spend or by conflict.

It's a credible theory but its success in practice relies on a number of important factors. Will the network be able to convince clients that it isn't a 'second best' option alongside its giant stablemates J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam?

Can it overcome client suspicion that this might be an attempt to force-fit a USP to a network that doesn't really have one? And will a generally more relaxed attitude by big clients to conflict make business from these so-called 'challenger' brands hard to come by? We'll see



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