EDITORIAL: Size shouldn't be everything when it comes to selecting the right firm for your business

Hewlett Packard's choice of three large, multinational firms for its global brief will discourage some midsize agencies and boutiques.

Hewlett Packard's choice of three large, multinational firms for its global brief will discourage some midsize agencies and boutiques.

Consolidating operations globally, the new HP brought neither the Hoffman Agency nor Applied Communications, two of its principal midsize contenders, along for the ride. Agilent, in a similar move, consolidated PR with Weber Shandwick Worldwide, knocking out A&R Partners, as well as two larger brands. HP will undoubtedly cite the global capabilities of its selected firms as a key differentiator, a reasonable priority given the scope of HP's business. But a closer look into the capabilities offered by the winners might forestall that recurring conversation all PRWeek reporters have with agencies: Is size important? It is an oft-heard refrain that big firms win big accounts by having "dots on the map," and not for their quality of service. Unfortunately for large agencies, clients often reinforce that view by generically citing "global reach" as the most important factor in their decision-making. Big PR firms will cater to that sensibility. Small firms try to combat that by saying they outperform large rivals in quality of service and flexibility. Though it's tempting to debate the virtues of big versus small, the PR industry must move this issue along. We must put to rest the question of agency size by examining closely the execution of individual accounts - including global reporting structures, both in-house and internally in the agency - and measurable results. No company worth its stock price will choose agencies solely on the basis of how many offices they have around the world. No agency should make its case, for or against, on that basis either. -Julia Hood PR gets good news on integration front Last week's news that IPG vice-chairman and ad guru David Bell would be working closely with Larry Weber at Advanced Marketing Services, parent arm of WSW and Golin/Harris International, capped a week of news that showed how vital integration is to clients. In that same week, both Roche Diagnostics and the US Postal Service appointed giant, integrated teams of sister agencies, both clients pointing to seamless messaging and single-team briefings as the appeal. It's about time. While PR has always prided itself on niche areas such as IR and crisis comms, agency bosses say that right now, consumer marketing is where the money is. But the holding companies have been slow to integrate PR into marketing offerings: they're just not all built that way. Holding-company moves have centered around ad agencies, while PR firms have often been thrown together into "diversified" groups with other random non-advertising areas, such as direct marketing and contract publishing. No major holding-company boss has come from the PR or DM side. Perhaps as a by-product of this, PR firms haven't been part of the equation when giant clients align their business, and have thus often found themselves working with a stepfamily of ad agencies, often not party to core discussions. Maybe those days are finally coming to an end. OK, a closer eye on AMS may just be the result of IPG's panic over last week's quarterly results, which showed PR taking a pounding. But perhaps it's the realization that if a client wants an integrated approach, the firms must find more formalized ways of working together. -Eleanor Trickett

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