Message from clients is media

Euro RSCG may have punched well below its weight in this year’s Marketing Week Agency Reputations survey, which polls the biggest-spending clients, but it should take comfort from having acquired a prize pugilist – Ben Langdon – to front its European operations.

Maybe he’s not everyone’s ideal boss, but his pulling power with clients is indisputable. That, at least, must be the rueful conclusion drawn by McCann-Erickson – which spectacularly fired Langdon last year – as it comes to terms with its descent from top to third place. True, the taint of scandal will have been none too helpful to McCann either, yet it is hard to believe that arcane accountancy misdemeanours will have weighed heavily as an alternative reason for marking it down.

On a more positive note, Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO has resumed pole position after a brief eclipse by McCann. A critical time in the evolution of any successful agency is when the founding generation gives way to the Young Turks. AMV’s continuing versatility as an agency, plus its self-evident resilience, indicates that reaching the top was not a fluke; and that its reputation is safe in the hands of the new team run by chief executive Cilla Snowball.

Sadly, the opposite appears applicable to DDB London, formerly Boase Massimi Pollitt. Not so long ago it could boast of first or second position, now it is floundering at number 20. To add to the woes of significant account losses, DDB has been going through a long, drawn-out succession crisis. New chief executive Paul Hammersley will have his work cut out repolishing the agency’s reputation.

Still, it could have been worse. Suppose, for instance, Hammersley were still running Lowe in London. After a catastrophic series of client losses (Orange, Braun, much of General Motors, and – who knows? – HSBC) and a much more public Night of the Long Knives, Lowe has done the unheard of and plunged from 12th position right out of the top 30.

And the ones to watch? Pretty obviously Mother – number 11 for the second year running (and top of the creativity table) – and Grey – where chief executive Garry Lace’s open-door style has paid off in teleporting his agency from outside the top 20 to number 14 – warrant a closer look. Then there’s Clemmow Hornby Inge, into the top 20 for the first time at number 17, and Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest, which makes its debut in the top 30.

Strategically, however, the most interesting result is MediaCom. The agency has achieved the unprecedented feat for a media specialist of reaching second place overall. It’s often said that media and creative agencies, having effectively divorced, are now seeking a reconciliation. So, while ad agencies are cultivating the in-house media planner, media specialists are daily coming to resemble the full-service agencies from which they sprang (minus of course the creative function). This trend is accurately reflected in top clients’ increasing reluctance, where reputation is concerned, to discriminate between the two functions. But the fact that MediaCom, Carat et al. are aggregately moving up the league table also tells us a lot about clients’ preoccupation with media fragmentation and the waning power of the 30-second ITV spot.

Stuart Smith, Editor

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