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Keeping It In The Family: The Way Forward for Agencies in the New 'Mediascape'

The subject of who is best placed to develop a brand’s strategy has been in the news in the last couple of months – it’s an old argument that bubbles from time to time. Ad agencies still accuse brand consultancies of coming up with brand strategies that are cumbersome to translate into advertising. Whilst brand consultancies suggest that those agencies are threatened by the role branding is playing above traditional communications.

The strength of feeling we’ve seen from both sides shows that there is clearly an enduring distrust between the ad agency and brand consultancy. And to a point, it’s understandable. The world of brand communication is changing so fast many of us are still catching our breath. Things used to be so simple. There were fewer brands, fewer agencies, fewer channels and therefore fewer messages to reach a consumer who was less confused than he is today. The relationship between brand and consumer was more straightforward. We all know the story from here. Media fragmentation combined with a savvy but time starved consumer means that brands need to cut-through the thousands of visual messages we are bombarded with everyday. And this standout can no longer come from traditional advertising alone.

In this context, ‘branding is like a maze’. Clients need our help more than ever as they are trying to plot a course and then take the correct route. Competition for stretched marketing budgets is fiercer than it’s ever been and our clients are constantly looking for ways to get value for money from the agencies they choose without compromising their creative muscle.

That’s why it’s important that we move this debate on. The situation this summer between BBH, Wolff Olins and Sony Ericsson shows us that true and open collaboration between ad agency, brand consultancy and client is not yet common practice. This is despite the fact that consumers actually converge all the different messaging and presentation they receive into one assessment of the brand ‘in the round’. As we know, they don’t care where the ideas come from – they just judge the result.

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