Between the Lines: Neutral spin-offs struggle

The departure of Phil Dowgierd (page 5) from Happen@Fallon, the agency's joint venture with Naked Communications, begs questions about the recent raft of media-neutral ad agency subsidiaries.

Clemmow Hornby Inge launched Naked Inside in 2003. Following that, Grey created an ill-fated rival, WCRS introduced Element and Fallon formed Happen, all in conjunction with Naked.

The ventures promised new income streams and security in a changing media landscape.

However, Grey's start-up died an early death, Element's key BMW client is in review and now one of Happen's founders is leaving, having won only the Tate's business in a year of trading.

It seems there may be a conflict of interest at the heart of these operations. Ad agencies like to make lucrative TV ads. Comms-neutral planning arms are hired to recommend a variety of media channels. Only the noblest of advertising agencies would allow a subsidiary to make recommendations that would reduce its income.