Sean Cummins: Advertising changed for the worse when agencies were split

Sean Cummins
By Sean Cummins | 21 September 2012
CumminsRoss executive director, Sean Cummins.

I went to meet a prospective new business client the other day in Adelaide. At the given point where one throws down the metaphorical credentials trump card I said “And you know, we are the only one-stop-shop in this market”.

The client - smart, erudite and controlled - said without flinching “no you’re not, Agency ABC (not their real acronym) is full service”.

“Full service” I said  f-ffing on the “f” in full service like I was at an elocution lesson. “So they have media in-house along with all the other disciplines?”

“Yes” she said. “They have LEGEND media (not their real pompous name) in house.”

At this point it struck me that several generations of clients do not truly know what full service is if they see a group of individual businesses, whose only relationship is a holding company parent, as one offering.

I didn’t want to drive home the nuance that two separate companies, with two separate P&Ls who happen to work in the same office building for cost efficiencies and floor space capacity issues , does not constitute full service. Let alone a one-stop-shop.

To me a one-stop-shop means one name, one culture, one invoice and one briefing. It is one ecosystem where all the required skills of the advertising process worked – you guessed it – as one.

Most people in advertising sit at the kiddies table at the big family gathering. The old foldaway number that is shoved up next to the dining table. It is slightly lower, rickety, and is covered with a different tablecloth. Most, except for the media people.

They’re sitting with the grown ups – the clients – having grown up conversations while the creatives, suits and digital people are giggling are down the other end. Spilling their cordial and playing with their food.

When media shops went out on their own advertising changed for the worse. I remember working with clever media people who talked with creatives about the possibilities. Creative executions were informed by media and vice versa.

Today the deals are done, the media is bought before creative is even discussed. The grown ups left the table.

Media people are smart, intuitive and can often find the consumer narrative in data, if they’re good enough. And combined with creative thinkers and account service guile – it is a dynamic conversation. And the best of all possible services for clients.  But one that very few agencies are having. Or offering.

When media people left the agency to strike out on their own, the agency replaced them with – aaarrrrgggh – planners.

If you are a true one-stop-shop you don’t need planners. Because all disciplines become part of the grand plan. That to me is the true virtue of the model and why it will be the future of advertising.  Just like in the past.

Sean Cummins
Chief Executive Officer

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