Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee: Innovation in media agencies still exists. Good stuff, indeed

It's been more than six years since Mark Jarvis, Jenny Biggam and Colin Mills flounced out of Carat to form the7stars, named after a pub in Holborn where the conspirators hatched their plan.

It was the first full-service media independent since Walker Media seven years earlier. And while the agency has ticked along relatively nicely ever since - occasionally troubling the new-business league tables but never really its rivals - it failed to set the media world afire.

After Aegis bought out MediaVest Manchester, that (we assumed) would be the end of the full-service media independent. Other than the7stars and its quirky client list, all that remained were a few plucky but unfashionable lifestyle or legacy businesses, toiling away in serviced offices above shops on the likes of partworks, charities, record labels and regional retailers.

Instead, media entrepreneurs (and those with itchy feet) decided to go and pursue the world of communications planning - a nebulous term, maybe, but unshackled from the implementational chore of actually having to fulfil their recommendations. And recent history has shown what fate had in store for them (see Campaigns passim).

Well, all except one: Goodstuff Communications. Formed in 2004 with a small amount of Omnicom backing, it too rode the wave of the comms planning agencies through the last decade. But unlike its contemporaries, when it realised that the game was up, rather than accept the inevitable, it reinvented itself - the fact that it created a joint venture with Manning Gottlieb OMD to retain its place on the Virgin Media account earlier this year showed that its founders still had fire in their bellies.

This week, it's gone one stage further - with the hiring of the talented Simeon Adams from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, to whom much credit is due for the Yeo Valley strategy, and the experienced media trader Bobby Din, as of now Goodstuff is a full-service offering.

Positioned between the John Ayling, Total, Brilliant and Target Medias of the world and the smaller network offerings such as Vizeum, Arena and UM London, Goodstuff has what looks to be a distinct advantage over the7stars. While it will trade separately of Omnicom - which has increased its stake but is still a minority shareholder - and on a line-by-line basis for its clients, it will be able to tap into the group for those high-end services that its independent rivals cannot.

Should we be excited about Goodstuff's move? I think so. As well as a bespoke service and offering an alternative to the choice of network (usually second-string) agency or independent for medium-sized advertisers, it shows that innovation in an agency market that has appeared to become stale is still possible. Good luck to it.