Few people will have been surprised by the news that Lowe Howard-Spink
is to hive off its in-house media department as a standalone media
specialist (Campaign, last week). Not only have details about the move
leaked out over the past few months, but Lowes has increasingly been
marginalised in the modern media market.
The agency’s media department, lauded in the 80s for being creative and
quality-led, has been overtaken in the image wars by the modern media
specialist, where claims of creative and strategic planning prowess have
been skilfully grafted to the old blunt buying approach.
What the birth of Western International Media Europe also means, of
course, is that there are now only four agencies wearing a full-service
badge in the UK market. If Lowes has left it a little late, what hope
for the others?
It’s easy to see these faithful four - J. Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett,
BMP DDB and WCRS - as the dinosaurs of the pack, were it not for the
fact that they all manage to run pretty good businesses on the back of
their full-service status. BMP, in particular, is a formidable
competitor to the best of the specialists.
Clearly these agencies and their full-service clients believe there is
still room in the market for a one-stop shop and it’s time they began to
capitalise on their strength. After all, what really matters in media is
what you do, not whether your offering is full-service, dependant,
independent or whatever.
At a time when creative agencies are recognising the need for a media
voice in-house (the Network’s Rhona Tridgell joining Foote Cone Belding,
for example), full-service agencies should market their in-house media
departments to the hilt. Unless, of course, they’re still only in-house
because they’ve taken their eye off the ball. Or, in JWT’s case, because
Martin Sorrell has not had his way yet.