The other day, I noted the CMO Council’s belief that management consultants such as Deloitte and Accenture are invading traditional ad agency terrain, thanks to their superior grasp of customer data capture and manipulation.
But in truth, it’s a pincer movement, in which the PR industry provides the other arm. I’m indebted to my old chum Stephen Foster for drawing attention to an interview with Matthew Freud, the doyen of PR and founder of the eponymously-named PR outfit, in his trade paper of choice. Here are some interesting excerpts:
So can we say that PR has finally moved up the marketing food chain?
“Ten or 15 years ago CEOs used to know the head of their advertising agency, but now our peer group has emerged as the strategic advisers of choice in marcoms. Clients are also now saying the best idea wins, rather than simply accepting their advertising shop as the lead agency.
“For many of our clients we are now the lead strategic or creative agency. We were certainly the lead agency for Nescafé – three TV campaigns in a row were our ideas. For Walkers, its most successful consumer-facing campaign – Do Us a Flavour – was conceived by us in conjunction with film director Paul Weiland. The ad agency AMV BBDO played no real part in the strategy or idea creation.”
AMV might have something to say about that.
Freud’s basic contention is that PR is better set up to deal with clients because it has more “rigour”, thanks to its daily dealings with cynical journalists. In his own words:
“PR – in terms of reputation management, third party endorsement, crisis management – is about as core a function as any company currently has. Reputationally there has never been a time when you can divide companies more easily into the f***ed and the nonf*** ed. There is total consumer transparency, extraordinary media scrutiny and a massive collapse of public trust in companies, governments and institutions. Reputation management is a firewall around your business. If you don’t have it, you are likely to fall over.”
Freud, the agency, is (just) majority owned by Publicis Groupe and it’s amusing to note Freud’s admiration for Publicis chief Maurice Lévy and his unvarnished contempt for both WPP and Omnicom (to whom Freud, the man, previously sold his business):
“When I did the Publicis deal, I didn’t want to repeat the mistakes I had made in the past [AMV/Omnicom]. I sold very few of my own shares and as far as I’m concerned it’s still my company… I have enormous respect for Maurice Levy [Publicis CEO]. If you compare him with his peer group, he is head and shoulders – quite literally in some cases – above them. He is my friend and partner.”
Full interview, by PR Week editor Danny Rogers, here.