The spat between the IPA and the APA, the trade body for independent production companies, over ad agencies offering in-house production services seems to have been quietened down since its initial flare-up at the beginning of the year.
At that time, it was the subject of several intemperate exchanges between the two trade bodies over who exactly would be the beneficiary from ad agencies that had conceived a creative idea for a client also producing it themselves – would it be the advertisers or would it be the agency?
Compared to the US, where things have been far more unpleasant, the UK seems to have less of an issue. A recent report by the US Association of National Advertisers claimed that agencies are engaging in anti-competitive behaviour that is a conflict of interest and damaging to the interests of advertisers. The ANA report is separate to the US Justice Department investigation into bid rigging, which includes allegations that ad agencies are pitching their in-house production units against independent production companies and fixing the outcome in their favour.
So could it be that some of the UK independent production companies have realised that rather than just rail against the tanks parked on their lawn by agencies, they have decided to despatch a small convoy to do exactly the same to them? The appointment of Dom Goldman, a well known and well respected creative director most famous for his time at Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Grey London, by Iconoclast perhaps suggests so although the company isn't giving much away for now.
Goldman isn’t the first creative director to make the move to a production company – creative departments have long proved to be an incubator for creatives who yearn to become producers (Andy McLeod, Tom Tagholm and Ed Morris to name just a handful). However, Goldman hasn’t chosen this job role – instead he joins as global creative director, tantalisingly suggesting that Iconoclast is planning on cutting out the agency middle-men and dealing directly with advertisers.
In truth, as Mike McGee, the chief executive of Framestore, pointed out in the pages of Campaign in May, some production companies – particularly in the VFX area in which it specialises – have always been nibbling on ad agencies’ lunches. Indeed, the development of newer technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, and the importance of content-led strategies have provided an opportunity for independents to cut out the traditional agency lynchpin. But the appointment by production companies of a real creative heavyweight such as Goldman suggests that that nibble is going to turn into a bite.
So should ad agencies be worried or have cause for complaint? Not really. They should embrace the fact that the traditional silos have broken down – after all, they have played a part in their destruction – and besides, they don’t have the monopoly on generating creative output for brands.
As Sarah Golding, the president of the IPA, says: "Competition both inside and outside the advertising world is healthy. It pushes us all to be better. If agencies want to be the lead creative partners for their clients they have to work hard to be the best." Game on.