Time for the big re­veal

Campaign UK - - CONTENTS - By Rachel Barnes UK ed­i­tor

Spoiler alert, you scored 6. Well, 6.14 to be pre­cise. That’s about a low B grade by my cal­cu­la­tions. Of course, that’s just the av­er­age from all 100 agencies in our 2018 School Re­ports (p40), but ar­guably it’s not a bad re­flec­tion of the year that was. Are you bet­ter… or worse than a 6? While the highs and lows within it are plentiful, taken as a col­lec­tive snap­shot of our in­dus­try, the list is a re­mark­ably sta­ble pic­ture of health in a volatile time to be in ad­ver­tis­ing. Thirty-four agencies main­tained their scores from last year, with a syn­chro­nised 28 com­pa­nies scor­ing higher and 28 scor­ing lower than their record last year (10 agencies are new to the list). Look­ing at an­nual billings from Nielsen’s rank­ings is less joy­ous, with 20 of the top 30 cre­ative agencies ex­pe­ri­enc­ing year-on-year de­clines – al­though that mea­sure has its ob­vi­ous lim­i­ta­tions. When­ever such a state of the na­tion re­port comes out, you can’t help but imag­ine what the fu­ture will look like. There are some agencies in the 2018 re­port that are al­ready op­er­at­ing un­der new names: MEC and Maxus (now united as Wave­maker) and CHI (The & Part­ner­ship) to name but three. What will School Re­ports look like in the next few years? Blimey, 2020 could be un­recog­nis­able if some com­men­ta­tors’ pre­dic­tions prove cor­rect. Com­ment­ing on a story that’s un­rav­el­ling as we go to press is al­ways risky, but, as it stands, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged per­sonal mis­con­duct by Sir Martin Sor­rell is on­go­ing. Re­gard­less of what hap­pens, this could be the trig­ger to change the face of WPP. Ac­cord­ing to me­dia an­a­lyst Alex de Groote (p20), share­hold­ers want WPP bro­ken up. And once it goes, the “pres­sure on the other guys will be ir­re­sistible”, he says, fore­cast­ing that all the ma­jor hold­ing com­pa­nies will split within 12 to 18 months. Oth­ers are more con­ser­va­tive, pre­dict­ing a con­tin­u­a­tion of WPP’S sim­pli­fi­ca­tion strat­egy: merg­ing agency brands and re­mov­ing si­los. What­ever the out­come, one leader’s ter­mi­nol­ogy to de­scribe the sit­u­a­tion is spot on: “ex­tremely ugly”. When lead­ers and fig­ure­heads are in the crosshairs, there’s prob­a­bly no bet­ter time to ask some search­ing ques­tions about the fu­ture shape of your or­gan­i­sa­tion. Facebook’s Mark Zucker­berg makes for an­other clas­sic ex­am­ple, along­side Sor­rell. Both are su­per­star lead­ers, but is that an en­vi­able po­si­tion? Writ­ing for Cam­paign­live this month, Ab­bott Mead Vick­ers BBDO’S Craig Mawd­s­ley de­bunked the cult of su­per­star tal­ent: “Mark Zucker­berg is un­doubt­edly a very clever guy, but he is not the only per­son who could ever have con­ceived of and built Facebook.” Our job, Mawd­s­ley ar­gues, is not to be­come su­per­stars, or even help oth­ers to be­come su­per­stars; the in­di­vid­ual is al­most ir­rel­e­vant – or, more of­ten, ac­tively de­struc­tive – when you want to make any­thing hap­pen at scale. School Re­ports might make some feel like su­per­stars when they see their scores, but what I take away from this process is how the ego must be left at the door when those in the list sub­ject them­selves to Cam­paign’s prod­ding and pok­ing around. You put your­selves out there and you take a risk. We couldn’t do it with­out you. Mawd­s­ley con­cludes: “You’re not that spe­cial. None of us are.” That may ap­ply to the cult of the per­son­al­ity, but when the right peo­ple come to­gether in our finest agencies, the grades quickly out­class that of a 6. • @rachelm­r­barnes

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