ANALYSIS: Clients Need Creativity with Business Focus

Article excerpt

Some joined-up thinking is vital if the consultancy gap is to be filled, argues Leslie Butterfield.

Brands are complex, difficult and sometimes frustrating things - that's why they're fun, but also why brand owners often look outside their own organisations for advice for development and management.

But there is a gap in this advice market. Too many agencies are fighting for the attention of chief executives and marketing directors. Yet those same individuals are feeling under-served because they're faced with an imperfect choice.

Ad agencies compete with management consultancies to sell their wares, particularly in respect of brand advice. But all come with baggage. The market is crying out for fresh choices - the gap is in fact a vacuum, and in that vacuum there is an appetite for quality.

For too long the key players have been cutting margins, people and investment to cope with the constant pressure on their fees. The result is a stripped-down service from an overstretched headcount.

The client may pay less, but they also get less. And as with any market, this opens up a gap at the top. Brands are too important to get wrong - even if it's just 5% wrong. And I see a growing desire from the quality brands for a quality service.

By 'quality brands' I don't just mean luxury goods companies such as Mercedes-Benz or Louis Vuitton. I also include brands that have historically set high standards for marketing thinking, such as Cadbury Schweppes or Kellogg. Brands such as these are prepared to pay more to get more; they don't want to do branding on the cheap.

None of this is to criticise the skills of current providers. Ad agencies are still ahead of the field when it comes to insight, creative thinking and customer focus; management consultancies are consistently impressive in their discipline, process and business focus. …

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