Independence is enticing, but networks have their benefits

The developments at WPP PR giant Hill & Knowlton in early January once again demonstrate the intense pressure firms are under in a network structure and the constant fuel required to turbo charge their revenues and service offerings.

The developments at WPP PR giant Hill & Knowlton in early January once again demonstrate the intense pressure firms are under in a network structure and the constant fuel required to turbo charge their revenues and service offerings.

Key members of senior management, including global CEO Paul Taaffe and chair and director of the firm's worldwide marketing communications practice MaryLee Sachs, have gone, to be replaced by executives from Public Strategies - the political consultancy that reversed into H&K last November and quickly took control of the merged operation.

WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell has certainly started the year in combative mode and on a mission to improve the parts of his marketing services empire he feels are underperforming, with January also seeing the departure of media behemoth MediaCom North America's CEO Doug Checkeris "to pursue other interests."

Look deep into the eyes of a WPP CEO at budget-setting time and you will understand the true definition of fear, as the poor unfortunate seeks to plot a path to achieving the stringent targets set down from above. But that pressure comes with the territory and is why they are paid such attractive compensation.

It's one reason why other firms have chosen a different path. Another recent high-profile story was MWW buying itself out of Interpublic Group and renewing its independence. Led by CEO and founder Michael Kempner, a management team has reacquired the firm. This is a rare occurrence, but it has been successfully navigated in the past by the likes of APCO's Margery Kraus and Tony Russo at Russo Partners.

Clearly there are several reasons for doing this, including a yearning for independence and nimbleness that sometimes can't be expressed within a network. Conversely, the networks have the scale to genuinely service global clients in the way they demand in this rapidly shrinking modern marketing world.

No individual model is perfect: the important thing is to remember that client needs must always come first, not individual agendas at agencies.

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