The full-service agency is dead. Long live the...er, long live the what?
Of course, Lowe Howard-Spink will argue the toss, but the events of last
week (Campaign, 8 December) and the year as a whole suggest that
arguments about full service are about to become extinct.
Leaving aside the media-related developments at Lowe Howard-Spink and
McCann-Erickson last week (both are Interpublic group agencies, but
there is no suggestion that the two are in any way connected), consider
that this year we have seen two other bastions of the full-service credo
- Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Bartle Bogle Hegarty - abandon that
BBH has already set up its third-party dependant, Motive, and Abbott
Mead will set up a media shop some time next year with BMP DDB Needham.
What agencies are we then left with that can claim to be full service -
in the sense that while they offer media, it is only on behalf of
clients for whom they do creative work? The answer is very few.
Arguably, WCRS falls into this category, as does Leagas Delaney, but of
the other possible contenders, even agencies like Leo Burnett and J.
Walter Thompson buy or act on behalf of third parties.
And now, as of last week, we have both Lowes and McCanns moving towards
separately branded media operations, although Lowes, for the moment,
looks to be hedging its bets a bit.
Does any of this matter? Of course it does. First, it is yet more proof
that the importance of media has been recognised. There is a theory in
some quarters that in the future all agencies will be built around media
departments and it is the creative work that will be contracted out to
independents or freelancers.
Who knows whether this is realistic, but the point is that agencies must
continually reassess their structures as the world around them changes.
Here is welcome evidence that some are doing so.