At first it sounded like a joke, but like any joke, once you’ve
heard it a few times it stops being funny. When several senior clients
told it at the Lisbon TV conference, it began to sound downright
The return of the full service agency? Ha ha, good one. But weighty
voices with meaty budgets are now beginning to question the structure of
advertising and media agencies.
Once upon a time, ye olde cliente had only to visit one office and have
one meeting to sort out all of his advertising needs; life was
Now, not only are there creative and media agencies, but these agencies
have launched a host of strategic and specialist units and clients are
beginning to suspect that such expansion has more to do with
money-making than client servicing. New media - being new and difficult
- needs a dedicated team to tackle the implications (or at least to
stand on conference platforms and spout finger-in-the-wind platitudes);
sponsorship, too, well ...
that’s a bit new and a bit different, and let’s throw in event
marketing, sports marketing and PR units while we’re at it. That should
crank up the fees.
As Eric Salamon from Heinz and Kimberly-Clark’s Oliver Cleaver argued in
Lisbon, more and more specialist divisions are being launched in an
effort to charge the client more, while the idea of a holistic
communications strategy is being undermined. And John Billett,
naturally, had a view, citing media executives who plan and buy
campaigns without ever seeing the ad in question.
Does all of this represent an irresistible argument for the return of
full service? I don’t think so. Many clients still see media as a cost
rather than an investment and still apportion their media accounts on
the basis of price. Who can blame agencies for topping up their fees by
branching out into new areas of expertise and charging for these
added-value services? And if media agencies are to invest in these new
areas (and invest heavily if the going rate for a two-bit executive with
the sheerest of new-media credentials is anything to go by), they must
be allowed to charge a fairer rate for these new services than they ever
have done for the old. None of this would really be addressed by a full
As for the wedding of media and creative, forget it. Neither party has
done much to understand the other since the separating of the ways a
decade or more ago, and you could count the number of creatives in
Lisbon on one finger (and, as a speaker, he was being paid for).
The call for the return of full service exposes the fact that for all
the talk about media agencies sitting at the client’s right hand, they
are still a long way from acting as true partners. This, surely, is
where the real opportunity now lies and with it the chance not just to
make a quick buck, but to build secure long-term income through
long-term partnerships with clients.