Is it possible for a bunch of successful agency managers - the
48-strong Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Council, for example
- to act in the interests of the entire industry? According to received
media wisdom, anyone working in advertising must be incapable of acting
in anyone’s interests other than their own or their client’s. Some would
argue that, like sending a scorpion for religious instruction, it
entirely misses the point.
Happily, however, it looks like the IPA is heading for just such a
policy change in its likely move towards releasing annual agency income
figures for public consumption. Following a lively council meeting last
week, and in light of Rupert Howell’s welcome appointment to the IPA
presidency for next year, now seems like a good time to revisit the
Certain kinds of agency will benefit more from the move than others.
At the moment, shops like Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Leagas Delaney and
others who do a lot of European or global fee-based work find their
achievements woefully under-reported. BBH, for example, would move from
about 18th by billings to eighth by income. And McCann-Erickson would
move from 14th to sixth.
Which only goes to prove that billings alone no longer give an accurate
picture of agency fortunes at a time when commission-only relationships
are increasingly rare and agencies are increasingly entrusted with
activities like new product development, strategic consultancy and
Agencies like M&C Saatchi or Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, would probably be
against it: they earn vast Dixons and BT billings on which the income is
tiny. And AMV - with its portfolio of through-the-line agencies to
consider - might justifiably raise the question of inconsistency in a
gross income league: would such a table include direct marketing and
sales promotion, for example?
In theory, the major benefit of a league based on billings is the
inescapably independent assessment of MMS and ACN Meal.
But although these companies produce perfectly accurate records of the
amount of advertising an agency creates and runs for its clients, should
we not be acknowledging the wider role that ad agencies have to play in
their clients’ business success?
For the record, I’d suggest that the industry would be well served by
two league tables: one based on billings, another on gross income.
Acknowledging that we have been as guilty as anyone in concentrating on
measuring agencies by billings, Campaign would be happy to publish
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