Full-service is once again the buzzword in the advertising industry. Start-up Hurrell and Dawson is the latest agency to announce plans to offer media planning and buying alongside creative, joining the likes of WCRS and Clemmow Hornby Inge in the market for a media hard-hitter to spearhead the move.
Some believe it is a foolhardy step given that the chasm between advertising and media agencies has never been greater, while others say that full-service agencies never worked well anyway.
This is not the first time in recent years that attempts have been made to integrate media thinking into the creative process. Two years ago, Bartle Bogle Hegarty appointed Soul (now Nitro) co-founder Kevin Brown to create a “fourth discipline” and introduce engagement planning into the agency. The same year, Rocket, the media agency co-owned by Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO and PHD, announced the creation of a standalone agency called Lunar to offer creative and media planning under one roof.
Hurrell and Dawson was founded last autumn by M&C Saatchi’s former European chairman Nick Hurrell and TBWA/London chairman Neil Dawson. Hurrell says: “What other agencies are doing is employing a media strategist to sit inside the agency, which is half right. But why stop there? The model of our agency will be to produce compelling creative content, whatever the medium, for which we will also need to take responsibility for both planning and buying.”
But one source doubts Hurrell and Dawson’s media credentials, describing their previous agencies as “two of the best-known advertising factories, famous for producing big TV ads rather than integrating media with creative”.
Hurrell responds: “The business is split in two. There are plenty of people from the creative and media sides of the business who are frustrated by that. Many clients think the same. That’s why we plan a seamless approach to strategy, creative and media.”
Possibilities for success
Walker Media’s founding partner Christine Walker thinks it is a bold move but worries it will find limited success. “Full service, even in its purest application, never did exist,” she says. “It is a myth that full service ever worked properly, though media neutrality in terms of thinking can work. That’s the reason people like me set up on their own.”
Walker doesn’t believe the single media partner Hurrell and Dawson is seeking will have planning and buying capabilities. These skills, she adds, will need to be enhanced with research services and brand development expertises, which “don’t come cheap”.
But, like Walker, other media executives feel that the new agency is making the right noises to try to move media closer to creative. “I give Hurrell and Dawson credit for trying to create a difference and opening the next chapter of communication,” says one. “But it will be a tall order to pull this one off on their own. They will need to go to some sort of a buying club to help them implement their thinking.”
Hurrell agrees that there will be an element of risk but he says the agency will “start small” and grow organically. “If it doesn’t work, we will stop,” he adds.
If the full service agency model fails yet again, it certainly will not be for want of trying. The industry will be watching with interest to see whether Hurrell and Dawson’s clients, which include IPC Media and Eurostar, will put their faith in the agency’s way of thinking.