Media: Double Standards - Bringing the big ideas to life in all the right places

Johnny Hornby and Nick Hurrell, whose agencies aim to integrate creative with media services, explain the thinking behind updating the full-service model.

JOHNNY HORNBY - FOUNDING PARTNER, CHI & PARTNERS

- Why did you decide to offer media/communications services as part of what you do?

Creative and media aren't sequential. The job is to provide a communications answer to a client's business problem. The best way to deliver that isn't to fill in a previously constructed media plan with some creative, or indeed to come up with creative that requires a certain media plan. That's why we've always had comms planning at the heart of what we do.

- Do you, or do you plan to, offer media buying as part of your service?

Yes, we will be buying media in December, and aim to start 2008 as a top-20 media buying agency in our own right.

- To what extent are you attempting to recreate the days of the full-service agency?

The great thing about the old full-service model was you had all the best brains in the room working to one agenda and one bottom line, and we were responsible for giving the client the whole solution. To recreate the full-service model for today, you need to do much more than just bring the advertising and the media together, you need top talent from DM, digital, mobile, design, etc, to work out a way they can all work together. And you need communications-neutral planners at the heart of it to work out the best mix of channels to deliver results.

- How does you offering media/communications planning help your clients?

We've offered communications planning - initially through our joint venture with Naked, Naked Inside, from the early days of CHI, and it's become one of the disciplines many of our clients value most to help them find the right channel mix. It's the comms planners who help us bring the big ideas we have for our clients to life for them in all the right places.

- If the media solution isn't always an ad, how are you resourced to execute other forms of communication?

There are 200 people at CHI & Partners, of which only 90 or so come from the discipline previously known as advertising. When we put Hall Moore, Naked Inside, CHI Design and what had been Freud Inside together with what was Clemmow Hornby Inge and created CHI & Partners, we created a media-neutral big ideas partnership with expertise across all the communications disciplines.

- In terms of media thinking, what can you offer that a media planning/buying agency can't?

We're offering a new fee, rather than commission-based approach. We will maintain the principles we've always practiced in comms planning - ie. that we can be completely impartial and objective about where our clients spend their money, as we only charge for our time and the quality of our consultancy. Our media buying will be entirely transparent.

- What's the most over-hyped trend in your market now?

Nicholas Hurrell.

- How would you describe your relationships with clients' media agencies, given you partly compete with them?

The market is so fragmented that none of us compete as much with each other as we think, which is probably why most of us are all mates, including Nick and I (but nobody thinks he's doing media properly, do they, really?).

NICK HURRELL - FOUNDING PARTNER, HURRELL AND DAWSON

- Why did you decide to offer media/communications services as part of what you do?

Clients, quite rightly, view media planning and buying as two of their key marketing decisions. And yet, to a greater or lesser extent, these decisions are made separately from the strategic and creative decisions for their brands. This is because our industry currently structures itself in this way. If you were inventing the process from scratch, you wouldn't separate these decisions. Oh, and we love media.

- Do you, or do you plan to, offer media buying as part of your service?

Yes. Our clients are asking us more media questions in the digital space than anywhere else. So this will be our initial focus. We will then decide which other buying teams to create in-house, in consultation with our clients. As we proceed, we will always be looking to deliver a non-traditional approach, one which is distinct from the offerings of rivals.

- To what extent are you attempting to recreate the days of the full-service agency?

The replication of old models is not our intent. The media landscape is changing so rapidly, as are the strategic and creative solutions required for this landscape, that we believe it is time for a totally new approach which embraces this. That said, full service we will be.

- How does you offering media/communications planning help your clients?

Given the current structure of the communications business, it is the client that is the ultimate integrator. The client spends many hours and covers many miles connecting the work of media and creative agencies. We can help by doing this for them, then they can worry about more pressing business issues.

- If the media solution isn't always an ad, how are you resourced to execute other forms of communication?

We now have two creative directors, Shaun McIlrath and Al Moseley, from very different backgrounds. Moreover, Greg Grimmer is a leading exponent of the non-traditional media solution. Everyone that we employ will be curious, in the sense that they will share our obsession with eclectic communications solutions.

- In terms of media thinking, what can you offer that a media planning/buying agency can't?

Even in the best media agency, the best media thinker is distanced from the creative originator. In our new model, the strategic planner, media planner, creative, media buyer and account handler will sit next to each other. This common-sense structure will be unique in the UK market. The view of media people working in the multinational groups is that they are treated as the unequal partners of the creative networks. We take a different view.

- What's the most over-hyped trend in your market now?

Buying in vast quantity in order to deliver economies of scale can be sensible. The assertion that buying in vast quantity delivers better quality to clients is patently nonsense. It's a question of talent: just interview the people who work for the biggest networks, as we have done, and ask them if they love their work ...

- How would you describe your relationships with clients' media agencies, given you partly compete with them?

In our first year of trading, we have worked with a different media agency on nearly every client or pitch. We like and respect our media partners and will happily continue to work with them if that is the model the client favours.

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