Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson’s capitulation before the TBWA dollar
appears to be yet another nail in the coffin of the independent,
mid-sized agency. The prevailing wisdom is that there is no future for
such agencies caught between the rock of giant multinationals and the
hard place of the small independent shop. Not too controversial a thesis
given recent agency history worldwide.
Then, along comes Mercedes with its lovely pounds 9 million budget,
rescuing BDDH, and appearing to disprove the theory. Surely there will
always be mid-sized clients such as Mercedes, who, having been slighted
by the local office of a multinational (in this case Leo Burnett
resigning Mercedes in the UK because of conflict with Fiat overseas),
will plump for the local alternative?
However, BDDH is not Simons Palmer, nor for that matter is it Howell
Henry Chaldecott Lury or Bartle Bogle Hegarty. It is at the small end of
that mid-range alongside Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters and, unlike that
agency, has been struggling to retain independence by keeping its
clients rather than growing through new business.
The truth about the middle ground is that there is no room for the
medium-sized agency that is desperate to be bigger. It is no longer
possible (as Howell Henry keeps finding out - Homepride, Fuji, Pepe and
Mazda) to grow organically to that next level. BBH and M&C Saatchi will
be the last UK agencies to do so. You can no longer win and retain the
size of business required because it will be centralised regionally. If
it is not, then the major domestic client may itself become part of some
multinational conglomerate (Mercury).
That’s why all eyes are now on Howell Henry and BBH. It’s not just that
they are the best independent agencies, they are the largest
medium-sized agencies that do not appear content to stay medium-sized.
Of course, making the kind of money Paul Simons’ mob has just made may
be an added attraction.