How old agencies can retain youthful vigour

It’s good to see someone of David Wethey’s stature and wisdom talking up the big agencies (MW last week).

So-called “international agencies” such as Publicis have always had to contend with the “younger lover” syndrome, despite the fact that a large proportion of our client-base and creative output is local (and the fact that start-ups eventually become the stout-ankled spouse they once mocked, when they sell out).

David is right to stiffen the big agencies’ sinews by encouraging them to play to their strengths. But they still need to change.

Our industry is Darwinian. Clients today still need creativity, but it must be creativity that acknowledges the bewildering spread of channels and speed of information transfer that the networked world now gives us.

The problem with most agencies of a certain age is that their processes are rooted in a linear way of working unchanged since the 1950s. To deliver the kind of elastic and adaptable creative thinking that the market now demands requires agencies to change the way they work dramatically – from the linear to the holistic, from the uni-channel to the multi-channel. In other words to throw away the traditional approaches and behaviours of the past 50 years.

I say this from the relative safety of an agency that has actually delivered on this change, sitting as I do in an open-plan “hub” surrounded by creative, planning and marketing services management colleagues, collaborating on the development of totally holistic programmes. We have, in effect, become a “new agency”.

Grant Duncan

Chief executive

Publicis

London W1

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