MEDIA: BEHIND THE HYPE - Manning Gottlieb expands to planning specialism

Does The Source offer more than a repackaged MG OMD service, Alasdair Reid asks.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Manning Gottlieb OMD's new initiative is actually called The Sauce. Not so much a reflection that its real name, The Source, is phonetically identical, but rather in recognition of the feeling that its launch bumf aspires to the cheekiest bit of marketing hyperbole the industry has seen in a while.

The Source (as the obligatory PowerPoint presentation says) is a "pioneering initiative", unheard of before in the annals of the marketing services profession.

Well, yes, up to a point. That point being the fact that, since the launch of Naked Communications (or, to be more precise, since Naked became a cause celebre), just about everyone in town has been toying with the notion of launching their own Naked-style unit. Many have gone ahead and done something about it already.

For the record, The Source is to be a communications planning resource that will work on all new-business briefs and give additional input (it will be invoiced as an add-on service) to client groups.

Nick Manning, the chief executive of Manning Gottlieb OMD, makes a decent fist of defending his claims. "Everyone talks about integrated communications planning but hardly anyone really does it and hardly anyone executes it," he insists. "We are going to do both and it will come from The Source."

Unfortunately, we've heard this sort of thing a couple of times before. This has been the year in which mainstream communications agencies have decided that it was time they eroded the unique selling proposition of planning specialists such as Naked.

"We can aspire to do all that Naked does," the argument runs. "Anyone can learn to be clever. But Naked Communications will never have the resource or clout to do what we do on the buying side."

In short, me-too Nakedness is often a defensive measure. Which, if nothing else, continues to be flattering stuff for Naked itself, doesn't it?

Well, yes, Will Collin, one of the company's founding partners, admits.

He adds: "The Source sounds a bit like what PHD was doing circa 1997. Giving it a name can be a good way of giving it greater emphasis. Having said that, we have a different business model. They may have very talented people but they don't have the sole purpose that we have. The culture and focus and purpose of a company is important."

Where PHD boldly went in 1997 (Naked was effectively a wholesale defection of its creative communications unit), many now have followed. And although in each case the structure and emphasis is different, the sentiment is basically the same. Recent creations include rebranding MediaCom's resource as Real World Communications, while Vizeum (which in living memory was the bruising, pile-it-high media outfit the Bass Buying Unit) now claims to have "connectivity".

The odd thing about The Source is that, to date, it hasn't involved the hiring of new personnel, just a rearrangement of office furniture. And even odder is the fact that Manning Gottlieb already has the highest possible credentials and reputation in planning. Does it really need to climb aboard this bandwagon?

Well, for a start, it might just be a new way to bill for old goods.

Paul Phillips, the director of media and advertising services at the AAR, says that there is no real harm in a bit of trade press coverage. "While it's true that clients don't appoint agencies on the basis of their public relations output, it may just help people to be aware of your existence," he concludes.


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