Media: Perspective - Start-ups must cut out the verbal froth and speak clearly

It's been a week of highs and lows. Peaks and troughs. Champagne and warm ale.

It was the week the festive booze supply finally ran out. One last bottle of fizz at the weekend was succeeded by a selection of dodgy reds and cans of bitter that were all the Darby wallet could stretch to.

It won't do to complain too much, though, as even a drizzle of inferior alcohol is better than having the month off. But while the liquid froth of the festive season has long since disappeared, the verbal froth emanating from media agencies has reached record levels and, while some of it might remind one of vintage Dom Perignon, much of it is pure Hofmeister.

January is certainly the season for announcements, fresh starts, new commitments and, from some at least, a hosepipe full of bullshit. For starters, it seems that Starcom is intent on inheriting Vizeum's former "wizards of wank" mantle with an invite to the launch of its communications planning offering. The mail-shot contains the word "ideation" in massive letters alongside the line: "A made-up word or have you heard of it?"

Hopefully, the invite is misleading and Starcom is set to unveil something that truly stands out in the market. After all, with its strong planning heritage, there is every chance this might happen.

The agency is on the back foot, though, with the review of Barclays following the resignation of the respected EMEA chief executive, Mark Cranmer, and the last thing it needs under its new UK chief executive, Linda Smith, is comms planning gobbledegook.

People, not overcomplicated positionings, tend to lead to good work.

Which brings us to the launch of the agency with possibly the most bizarre name in agency history: Staufenberger, Smith & Butte.

The agency is the brainchild of Yusuf Chuku and Patrick Syms (former directors of the Naked/WCRS venture Element). It's yet another comms planning agency that will move into a space already occupied by lots of small players.

While the agency's name is baffling, Chuku and Syms have quite a clear proposition ("call us for new launches, new audiences, new directions") and have landed a launch client in BMW. And if the Staufenberger launch were not enough, the former Starcom directors Pete Edwards, Will Saunders and Jez Groom are set to launch their own communications planning agency.

While sometimes it would be refreshing to see people leave media agencies to do something other than branded content or a comms planning start-up, such launches are to be welcomed. Whether they survive depends on the quality of the people and the clarity of the proposition. Avoiding bullshit, jargon and froth is a good recipe for success. Yet many in the business don't seem capable of this.


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