Media Perspective: Restructure at Carat can help the agencydiversify its offering

Down at Parker Tower, the Covent Garden pile inhabited by the Carat family, the head of the household, Neil Jones, has been tinkering with the set-up. While unkind visitors might be inclined to suggest he is merely polishing the family silver for an illustrious French buyer, his more generous guests might have to concede that they have noticed an improvement in service.

Just in case you missed it, Carat announced last week that it is restructuring into six "multidisciplinary", client-focused teams. Mini-agencies, if you like, each with its own mini-boss, which contain everything that a client could possibly want in one room - data, digital, insight and sponsorship, as well as traditional media planning and buying.

Jones, the agency's managing director for the past year, has promoted the head of media, Steve Hobbs, to the new role of head of planning and integration - he will oversee the six business units.

Jones and Hobbs might sound like the name of a company of removals specialists, but their aim is to do more than move the furniture around at Carat. They want to create a deeper, more collaborative way of working with clients and, as they point out, it's easier to deliver integrated solutions if your own business is itself integrated.

So, believers in integration will find much to applaud in Carat's approach. And it has to be said that Carat has a good track record in launching services such as digital, data and direct and selling them to clients such as Diageo and British Gas as integrated solutions. Yet beyond this, Carat seems to have the same agenda as every other media agency: creating greater profits by swimming upstream; offering clients all things while also consulting on their business needs. Or, in Carat jargon, becoming "champions of communication as a force for business transformation".

But the big question remains: does the Carat solution solve the fundamental problem that media agencies face when wanting to collaborate across disciplines with clients? How in the world can it be truly neutral and impartial when saddled by big buying departments and heads of departments such as direct and sponsorship who demand large salaries?

Carat's restructure goes some way to answering this - there is less reliance on big, centralised planning and buying teams with its new approach and a greater proportion of its revenues will come over time from non-core buying. However, for Carat's approach to work, it will need hard work, discipline, and really, really good people. A fancy new structure is important, but not enough on its own. On the whole, though, Jones' changes go beyond the cosmetic and if they can deliver greater diversity of services and new business at Carat, then it will be job done.

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