Cross-platform unions invigorate the industry

Last week WPP Group head man Martin Sorrell won top prize in Marketing Week’s 20th birthday honours for his outstanding contribution to marketing services. An impressive achievement, but the award could just as easily have been for services to advertising, or, indeed, design, given the spread of interests within his global group.

WPP agencies aren’t known for being the sexiest creative concerns around, but Sorrell’s business strategy and foresight about emerging global markets is laudable. His burgeoning marketing services empire is huge in might and influence – the kind of force we need to make a real industry of the relatively small business of design.

There aren’t many people like Sorrell around. But other global empires are growing apace in the creative sector, with major players such as Interpublic on the prowl. Lower down the chain are their subsidiaries, the likes of The Coleman Group and Diefenbach Elkins, and the impact of their expansion exploits over the past few months will show in Design Week’s 1998 Consultancy Survey, the results of which will be published on 27 March.

It’s heartening to see though that it’s not just the business-oriented megastars that are surging forward on the world stage and crossing over disciplines. The deal that’s just gone down between The Attik, an energetic team originally from Huddersfield, and film titles specialist Plume adds to an already thrusting group (see News, page 3).

Like Wolff Olins and new start-up agency Circus (DW 23 January), The Attik has breached the divide between design and advertising, spurred on by the more open attitude it has found in the US since it ventured across the Atlantic last year. Its takeover of Plume will fuel that development, while adding first-rate screen design skills to its offer. Richard Morrison and his largely itinerant bunch of experts meanwhile get a welcome stab at business communications and multimedia work.

Why Attik group creative director Simon Needham keeps using the hackneyed phrase “cutting edge” to describe his consultancy is beyond me, given its fresh outlook and direct approach. The speed with which it signed up Plume – on a par with the Interbrand UK/Newell and Sorrell merger last year – shows the clarity of its vision.

There isn’t room for many WPP-style enterprises, important though they are in getting design into the boardroom. But there is scope for more groups like The Attik to link up with like-minded creative teams and break through the barriers holding design apart from other disciplines. That is where the future strength of the industry surely lies.

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