Opinion: Perspective - The climate is right to launch new model agency

Back in 1988, five admen launched an agency called Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson.

It sold to TBWA in 1997 and the founders ended up going their separate ways. But 20 years on, most of them are still making headlines.

Chris Palmer recently won the Chairman's Award at the British Television Advertising Awards, Mark Denton has shaken up Creative Circle to great effect, Simon Clemmow last week topped up his bank balance when Clemmow Hornby Inge sold a stake to WPP, and now Carl Johnson is plotting a new assault on the UK by bringing his Anomaly agency to London.

A UK launch for Anomaly will depend on Johnson finding the right partners, but it's no coincidence that just as he feels the time is right to make a UK move, his former agency TBWA is also planning to launch a new shop into the UK: Media Arts Lab.

Students of the adland barometer that is the quarterly Bellwether Report will know that marketing budget rises have just hit a three-year high and initial budget setting for 2007 is at its highest since 2000.

So if you're going to open up over here, now seems like a pretty good time to do it.

The climate also seems ripe for the Anomaly model. As Bellwether revealingly underlines, the biggest growth is coming from direct, internet and interactive advertising; the traditional ad agency is having to redraw its lines of operation.

Anomaly bills itself very clearly as a new model agency. It describes itself as a response to the notion that the old agency models "are all broken" and "the traditional solutions are becoming less and less effective".

Its positioning sounds like a bunch of cliches, because so many agencies are talking about the need to re-gear their approach around the same principles: ideas-led, media-neutral, integrated, multi-disciplinary. Anomaly, though, launched with these principles at its core.

A little like Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Anomaly focuses on developing intellectual property that the agency can then license to clients in return for a share of revenues. And embedded in its DNA is the ambition to create its own brands - something Bartle Bogle Hegarty has long talked about doing here, but with little tangible progress so far. So Anomaly owns Shop Text, a transactional system that operates on mobile phones, and Lucky Media, which puts commercial messages on the back of Lottery tickets.

Of course, to do any of this properly (as opposed to superficially enshrining it all on PowerPoint and then actually just doing all the usual advertising stuff), you need the right mix of people. Anomaly New York has staff from media, design, PR, events as well as specialists in fields such as NPD, branding mobile and commercial rights, and some heavy hitters from the traditional account, planning and creative spheres.

Whether Johnson can compile an equally compelling mix of talent in the UK will be the real test. If he pulls it off, he will leapfrog an agency market here that recognises its model needs reinventing, but cannot - as yet - pull free of the comforts of the old world order.

Given some of the findings from the Bellwether Report mentioned above, it's easy to see why the advertising sector has again become a focus for venture capitalists. But it makes the Iostar farrago harder to fathom.

The chief executive, Dawn Airey, bailed out this week amid questions about the integrated media company's funding; plans to acquire a number of companies to kick-start its vision of bringing talent and rights management, distribution and production under one roof have fallen through because funds simply aren't there.

It's interesting to note that Iostar has names from the media annals - such as Tim Wootton and Dick Emery - on its board. They need to move quickly to revive their business plan if they're to avoid an embarrassing failure at the tail-end of their careers.