Great proposition, now MindShare UK has to deliver on it

Those were heady days, back in 1997 when the industry felt on the brink of something new and exciting. It might have been shamefully late into the game, but WPP's decision to launch MindShare really looked like it would shake things up, writes Claire Beale.

Ah well, it's not the first time life's let me down. Sure, the market was nervous about the debutant. Rival new-business directors loosened their ties, media planning directors rolled up the sleeves of their fine-knit pullies, buying clout was relegated to second place behind words such as "strategic" on credentials presentations. A general air of expectation hung over the business; here was a new agent for change.

Not just because MindShare was a new media entity, combining the -- admittedly rather lacklustre -- might of JWT Media and O&M Media. The real excitement came from the promise of a media operation that would catalyse WPP businesses around it to offer real insight through the media shop window. And the pairing of JWT's Dominic Proctor and O&M's Mandy Pooler was described as a "lethal combination".

But I would guess that rival agencies pretty quickly breathed a sigh of relief -- MindShare, after all, was not a wunderkind... simply another media agency whose positioning evaporated fairly swiftly. Proctor has been stretched internationally (and successfully), building MindShare into a consistent global brand; meanwhile Pooler has moved on to a new WPP division, The Channel. MindShare London has become just another media name, solid but unremarkable.

Here, MindShare has consistently failed to deliver on its promise. It has never really ascended the high ground, set a new agenda or harnessed the power of a holding company that boasts the Henley Centre and Millward Brown among its prized assets. Perhaps it was naive to think this possible -- individual company egos, bottom lines and business structures are hardly compatible with altruistic and harmonious co-operation. But the opportunity was there. And still is.

In the end, none of the other holding companies have managed to realise their media potential here either. Omnicom still has a fractured proposition, Interpublic Group has made a stab, via Magna, but there remains a rudderless group strategy. Will Kelly Clark, Simon Rees' successor as the chief at MindShare, and his counterparts at the sister agency Mediaedge:CIA manage to make real sense of a WPP media proposition? And will they between them find that magical combination of clout and clever thinking? From the political in-fighting that prevails, the chances are slim. But the nettle is still there to be grasped; for all their nervousness at MindShare's debut, none of the other media brands have managed to come up with anything matching its original promise and a MindShare-shaped market gap remains.

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