Will we ever stop hearing about the end of the traditional
advertising agency? I take you now to the editor’s office on Tuesday at
4pm where the news conference for this week’s issue is just getting
News editor: OK, newshounds - what have we got?
Reporter 1: ’I’ve got a great story about a new agency, a best-advice
ideas hot-house. Leaflets, in-house communications, PR, events, DRTV -
you name it, they’ll do it at half the price of any top 20 agency.’
Reporter 2: ’I’ve got a story about an account man who’s just been
He’s setting up Outside the Box, a media neutral strategic
All freelance staff, of course, but says he’s got a few unnamed big
clients gagging to work with him.’
Reporter 3: ’One of my contacts is launching an agency called Stretch
the Budget, one-stop shopping to orchestrate the full range of
communications solutions. Five hundred quid for five budget-enhancing
ideas - strictly project basis, of course.’
News editor: ’It all sounds very ten years ago. Any other stories?’
I exaggerate, but the rush to claim a new positioning does seem to be
getting out of hand. Apart from Dan Wieden - who said on launching his
agency in London: ’We’re led by the idea that we do great creative work’
- is anyone brave enough to launch an agency to create brilliant
At this, hands trembling with venom are sure to reach for pen and
vitriol to castigate me for daring to criticise through-the-liners. This
would be to misunderstand Campaign’s current thinking on the issue.
Until a few years ago, the belief that advertising was the gold standard
persisted here, certainly to the extent of defying client thinking on
In 1993, we published what now appear to be logic-defying statements of
advertising agencies ’meekly submitting to the plastic daffodil
syndrome’ and that ’the diversion of advertising budgets into
below-the-line activities is a wrong turning in which agencies have been
complicit by default’.
But that was then. These days, we accept and endorse the case for
integrated communications, as is evident from the second Campaign Direct
awards which appear with this week’s issue. Congratulations to Evans
Hunt Scott, Cable & Wireless and Safeway’s former relationship marketing
supremo, Stephen Taylor, who pick up the plaudits. But our choice of
winners suggests that we still believe in the value of specialists, and
this point is made all the time by the specialists themselves. One
reason for this is that we find little evidence that service companies
whose primary skill is advertising can charge clients realistically for
providing secondary skills such as direct marketing, or vice versa.
Anyone want to prove otherwise?
Stefano Hatfield is on holiday.