The deal between The Attik and Plume says two things about current design. First, graphics and screen graphics groups are eyeing up advertising as a potential new market. Then there is the power of the moving image as a mode of communication and source of new design work.
Links with advertising are certainly not new. The founders of supergroups such as Pentagram and The Partners grew up in a creative culture where the boundaries were not so strict. Everyone came out of art school then, rather than from degree courses at design colleges, and edges were decidedly blurred.
But now design groups are keen to extend their influence. Wolff Olins has successfully ventured over the fence, notably with Jazz FM and on-line directory service Scoot; this month screen graphics specialist English & Pockett formally launched a new commercials company, ep.com, with a roster of six top-level directors. New agencies such as Circus, launched in January, see potential in offering clients a total communications package.
The Attik has prided itself on being at what group creative director Simon Needham calls “the cutting edge” since its launch in Huddersfield in 1986. It has crossed over from print and multi-media as a matter of course, for clients such as computer games company Sega, EMI and PolyGram. It has plugged itself with style through its own publication Noise, now in its third edition, which has won various advertising and design awards.
But its real break into advertising came early last year, when director William Travis moved to New York and set up an office there. Most of Travis’s early US work was in advertising, mostly through ad agencies, and the latest win is 50 ad slots for TV network MTV. “I wish the UK was as easy as the US,” says Needham of the relationship between the ad world and design. “Everybody there is jumping.”
On the strength of the open culture in the US, group managing director James Somerville has now joined Travis, who plans to open an office in San Francisco in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, the Huddersfield team is due to move to Leeds.
The move that affects Plume, however, is the shift from west London to the West End within the next six weeks. Plume will cease to exist, its creative director Richard Morrison becoming creative director of The Attik’s moving image operation. But, according to former managing director Kate Irving, now account director of The Attik, Plume had already been trying to boost Morrison’s name over the consultancy’s, with an eye to such a deal which would broaden its scope.
The benefit to both sides is obvious. The Attik has a track record in multimedia and print, Plume in movies. Both see commercials and other screen-based communications as the big shift. The buyout of Plume allows this.
It also swells The Attik’s ranks to some 79 staff worldwide and boosts turnover projections for 1998 to 8m.
The only graphics specialism left is branding – which gives screen rival Martin Lambie-Nairn an advantage over The Attik through his link with Tutssels in The Brand Union. Needham answers by pointing to the previous experience of Irving and The Attik’s London managing director Tim Watson. Watch this space.