Opinion: Perspective - MindShare's new model challenges all agencies

I'm not entirely sure I fully understand the radical restructure unveiled by MindShare this week, although I've sat through a presentation on it and have a long press release all about it.

The problem with restructures is that they're not always easy to define. And explaining restructures with brutal simplicity is, anyway, compromised if there are any internal politics involved (and when isn't there, particularly where job titles and status are concerned?).

I do know that MindShare considers its initiative to be both radical and fundamental. And it expects the new model to lead the way in shaping how the old media agencies rebalance for the new digital, content-led, and thoroughly complex communications world.

The restructure sees MindShare abandon job titles, flatten hierarchies and re-gear its business around four key principles: client leadership, business planning, invention (which includes creative development and production) and exchange (the trading bit).

MindShare says that the goal of the restructure is "to create a new breed of marketing services agency dedicated to developing fully integrated, media-neutral business solutions for clients". The core idea is "to move beyond the realm of media solutions to fully integrate content creation and related areas to realise the optimum value of exchange between brands, consumers and corporations to create competitive advantage for MindShare clients". Geddit yet?

Anyway, here's my interpretation of what MindShare is doing. When the agency first launched (ten years ago in London), its uniqueness was based around its "house of media" positioning. Strategy was core, but backed by the impressive array of WPP group companies, particularly the research ones. With most other media agencies still peddling a buying-led proposition, MindShare had an edge.

A decade on, and the edge has softened to almost nothing. Strategic thinking, research, insight are all claimed by most media agencies; great buying is a given.

Meanwhile, despite all this investment in thinking and information, media has become more of a commodity purchase than ever, with stories of business being won on cut-(your own)-throat price promises. Earlier this week at the Venice Festival of Media, media agency chiefs warned that their businesses are suffering as clients tighten their budgetary belts. MindShare's Dominic Proctor portently proclaimed: "We must get away from this reliance on driving down price through procurement. We're all talking about how important it is to invest in the future and then get into a haggling match over whether clients pay 2 or 3 per cent for our services."

MindShare's new model will definitely give the agency a claim on higher fees and a purchase on content creation. And, though it won't overtly say it, the inevitable result of this will be to put the agency more squarely on the lawns of creative agencies.

MindShare clearly wants to own and direct advertisers' communications strategies. It wants "to be our clients' lead business partner in meeting the challenges this new landscape creates for them". Speak to Ogilvy, or JWT, or any decent creative agency in the market and if they don't have the same ambition, they're accepting failure.

And not only does MindShare want to control the whole communications process, it wants to create the content that drives it too. Again, the agency won't say this as explicitly as it might, but it does make it clear that "content and integration are more important than ever and MindShare has been heading in that direction over the past several years".

I wonder whether any creative agency chiefs have made it this far down my column this week. For their sakes, I hope so, because though MindShare might be struggling to clearly articulate its new approach, there's absolutely no doubt that it is throwing down a major gauntlet to media and creative agencies alike.