EDITORIAL: Can agency groups be one big happy family?

Last week we reported on how agencies are scrambling to get their

hands on new business, employing a variety of tactics to shore up their

bottom line.

This week, PRWeek has learned that two of the major agency groups have

each decided to pool their resources in order to raise their chances of

walking away with what has to be the most attractive account set loose

so far this year - IBM.

IBM incumbent Brodeur is drawing on the resources of its fellow Omnicom

agencies Fleishman-Hillard and Ketchum. Interpublic is attempting a

similar move, with its hi-tech agency TSI (another current IBM agency)

working with Golin/Harris and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.

These moves make sense. Why not capitalize on the client relationships

built by those two incumbent agencies, adding the global resources of

their larger sister shops? It's not the first time that an agency has

sought aid from another firm in its group, but the breadth of the

Omnicom and IPG moves are a PR watershed. After two years of feverish

activity on the acquisition trail, it's high time the benefit of

belonging to a family of agencies was shown.

There's no doubt that creaming off the brightest tech practitioners from

an entire group of agencies will be impressive to a client keen for all

the know-how and resource they can lay their hands on. Equally, to a

client of such global proportions as IBM, the knowledge that they can

access agency help in all the major markets will be reassuring.

But once the pitch is over, can the winning group make this ambitious

set-up deliver the goods? Because with all the best intentions, politics

is going to rear its head. The people with the original contacts are

inevitably going to feel that they "own" the account, although the

reality may be very different. And then there is the tricky task of

encouraging two or more sister agencies, which although belonging to the

same parent group have previously regarded each other as a competitor,

to share the business.

Sharing responsibility (and kudos) for any piece of work never


If the Omnicom or IPG teams win the IBM business they are going to have

to create a dedicated team with its own management that can throw off

its individual agency associations and take on a separate identity.

As we pointed out last week, finding original ways to attract new

business is top priority for most agencies right now. So some blurring

around the edges of individual agency identity is a risk that has to be

taken in order to pull in to the group an account of the magnitude of


Healthcare PR goes global Like the computing industry, global has become

the buzzword for healthcare PR. Starting on page 19, we list the top 150

healthcare PR agencies, with a focus on the increasingly strategic work

PR people are undertaking in this buoyant sector.

Healthcare PR may be strategic, global, and profitable, but simple it

isn't. It covers some of the most controversial communications tasks,

including aiding drug litigation, and dealing with the controversy over

arming patients with arguably too much information about drugs. Also, a

news story in this week's issue tells how Celgene is crafting a new

campaign to enhance the image of Thalidomide, a PR task with its own

unique challenges.

So even if you have never worked in healthcare, the feature is worth

reading because it explores a sector of the business that makes

promoting dot-coms seem like a walk in the park. Inspiring stuff.

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