Media: Behind the hype - Ingram Partnership proves its mettle one year on

The operation prides itself on its business nous and is set to grow, Lucy Aitken says.

"People said Chris (Ingram) was Roman Abramovich and we were Chelsea," Carol Fisher, the business strategy partner at The Ingram Partnership and the former COI Communications chief, says.

TIP launched a year ago and comparisons with Chelsea FC's Russian owner were made after Ingram went on a shopping spree, buying Unity, the brand consultancy The Gathering and Butterfield8, the consultancy launched by Leslie Butterfield.

Ingram said last year: "We are offering senior management a real alternative. This is about building brands in a business context."

It promised to help clients build business from a brand perspective but what has it achieved in its first year? Staff numbers have swelled to 28 and TIP is heavy on talent. Ivan Pollard and Andy Tilley from Unity work alongside The Gathering's Duncan Bruce and Marc Cox. Ditlev Schwanenflugel, a former McKinsey management consultant, is a founding partner.

Schwanenflugel's background adds credibility to TIP's claim to offer senior-level strategic advice and project management. "We combine the intellectual rigour of management consultants with the creativity and consumer insight from the agency side," Fisher says.

TIP sprung from a belief that there is demand for its services because traditional agencies do not understand their clients' businesses. "J. Walter Thompson used to write its clients' marketing plans," Fisher reminisces. "I don't think that happens now."

TIP has worked on 34 projects for clients such as Mercedes, Bosch, Cadbury Schweppes, Carphone Warehouse and Guardian Media Group. It won a brief to work alongside M&C Saatchi on London's 2012 Olympic bid and, in March, it was appointed to market TV as a medium. Research has already been conducted.

This underlines an important point about TIP: without the weight of a network or holding company, things get done quickly. Fisher also trumpets its independence: "We can offer advice without a hidden agenda."

The WPP business Nylon occupies a similar space. Martin Thomas, a partner at Nylon, agrees with TIP's philosophy that the unbundling of media has resulted in ad agencies losing some of their business nous. But he is dubious about TIP distancing itself from agencies, warning: "It won't work if you declare war on agencies."

Despite reservations, Thomas says: "Chris recognises that what keeps a client awake at night isn't rating points in Venezuela. As an industry, we must strive to have grown-up discussions about business strategy. Agencies did that 20 years ago but these days even a bright 34-year-old account person will struggle when they sit down with the chairman of Boots."

A massive advantage for TIP is its links with some heavyweight clients.

Graham Bednash, the managing partner at Michaelides & Bednash, says: "Half this business is about making connections with clients and they are very strong at that."

So where next for TIP? Ingram has reportedly been sizing up the New York market, a move that cannot come soon enough, according to Thomas: "They're going to have to expand globally. If you want to work for these multinational clients, it's difficult to do with a bunch of Brits in London. You've got to have talent in different parts of the world as clients are looking for global strategies."

Fisher remembers the reaction from people when she joined: "Everyone said 'we're really nervous because you have one of the best black books in the business'."

And so it seems that unlike Abramovich, and despite his owning Woking FC, there is more to Ingram than deep pockets.

Topics