History and Bunk

One of the most common errors, and we all make it is failing to learn from history. Even if history isn’t quite as much bunk as Henry Ford would have had us believe, each generation decides that they know best and that this time it will be different. 

The recent discussion around ‘a return to full-service’ has prompted these thoughts.

First of all, let’s nail one myth. Full-service agencies were great fun to work in; they were fantastic places to learn about the advertising business; but they weren’t in themselves a cure-all for silo-ed working and an answer to integrated thinking.

The fact is we seem to lurch from one extreme to the other.

In the full-service days media departments were very much ‘below the salt’, not to mention often hidden away in a cold, dank basement lit only by a flickering candle and heated by a single bar electric fire which was turned on for one hour each day (OK I made some of that up).

 Creative departments and suits ruled the roost. Certainly there were many wonderful ads produced, but the fact they are still remembered and sill talked about has something to do with the limited media choices out there, the enormous audiences delivered by each channel and the watercooler effect.

 Of course it also helped there were huge creative talents around at the time.

Clients didn’t particularly want or even need every element of the full-service available from their agencies – but that was the model on offer at the time.

Media people at the time whinged and moaned and eventually did something about it by setting up on their own.

 Now we have media vendors/platforms/traders/snake-oil salesmen in the ascendency whilst it’s the creatives’ turn to whinge and moan.

Both extremes are wrong.

Media was wrongly ignored in the full-service days.

 Creativity is being disastrously subsumed by the tide of technology and an obsession with what even the most ardent digital geek is starting to accept are meaningless numbers.

 ‘Campaign’ last week carried the news that our largest newspaper publisher, News UK has reorganised its advertising activities around a new business called Pulse Creative. 

Pulse Creative is a JV between The & Partnership and WPP and comprises staff from WPP businesses including Mindshare and The & Partnership’s CHI and Partners all working to a single P&L.

 Some will (some already have) see(n) this as a return to the old full-service model.

 It’s nothing of the sort, rather it’s a modern manifestation of how to bring together different disciplines into a single unit designed around the needs of a significant advertiser.

 It’s interesting and significant that WPP aren’t setting up a shop comprising the same disciplines but drawn only from within the WPP stable of businesses.

 I would be surprised if they didn’t try; but News UK obviously regards CHI and Partners highly. Hence the JV with The & Partnership.

 A victory for putting the client’s needs ahead of any internal considerations; and thus a victory for common sense.

 Full-service re-engineered; history brought up-to-date.





  1. Creativity is being disastrously subsumed by the tide of technology and an obsession with what even the most ardent digital geek is starting to accept are meaningless numbers.

    Absolutely love this, can I have permission to quote you?

  2. But has the consumers requirements changed. I hear that most digital users check there phone about 70 times a day! Do we really have time for high quality 90 sec TV ads anymore?

  3. Very interesting model. The responsibility of being a referee has shifted from the client to the JV. This however seems a specific client solution. Is the future about the creation of a JV as the result of every pitch? If so, Advertisers will have to pitch all disciplines at the same time. Seems difficult and convoluted but very interesting none the less.

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