Editorial: Shaping the new consultancy

In the same week that former Burson-Marsteller UK chief executive Alison Canning unveiled her new consultancy, Ogilvy Adams and Rinehart has announced its restructuring along practice management lines. The irony will not be lost on agency watchers. For it was B-M’s move to practice management that left Canning suddenly without a job last year. And in the same way, Fiona Driscoll now finds her role at OA&R is to vanish.

In the same week that former Burson-Marsteller UK chief executive

Alison Canning unveiled her new consultancy, Ogilvy Adams and Rinehart

has announced its restructuring along practice management lines. The

irony will not be lost on agency watchers. For it was B-M’s move to

practice management that left Canning suddenly without a job last year.

And in the same way, Fiona Driscoll now finds her role at OA&R is to

vanish.



Like B-M, OA&R’s intention is to put itself in the best possible

position to handle global and international client business. There the

parallels end, however. OA&R is a different proposition, partly because

it lacks the sheer bulk of B-M, and because many of its local offices

are already focused on international clients, as its Paris office is on

IBM. And unlike B-M with its huge infrastructure, it expects to use

local partners to service business in some markets.



All the big consultancies are united about the importance of

globalisation of client business, and that some form of practice

management facility will be a prerequisite for success. But B-M faced

considerable scepticism last year, partly because of the perceived

absurdity of a structure which left no room for someone as talented as

Canning. Needless to say, the agency firmly believes the flexibility of

the new structure will give it an edge in attracting global and

international business without detracting from local strength. The

theory has worked for the agency in North America although it is still

too early to judge its success in Europe.



Some rivals think it is a high risk route, however. Shandwick’s Peter

Gummer, for example, believes one has to combine both structures:

practice management to meet the needs of global clients; and a more

traditional structure to prevent senior players from drifting away to

become high powered ’PR mercenaries’ acting directly for clients.



Which brings us back to Canning, whose new stripped down ’virtual’

management consultancy operation has something in common with the

’mercenaries’ that Gummer predicts will start to emerge. Like OA&R, her

long term ambition is for a lean international operation offering links

with local partners in PR, design and so on.



In their different ways, this week’s news highlights the two forces that

will have a significant effect in shaping the PR consultancy business

over the next ten years: the globalisation of client business; and the

drift of some of the brightest and best in the business into a strategic

consultancy role which is perhaps more properly called reputation

management than public relations.



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