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.