The big consultancies are beautiful in the Benchmarks

The debate about whether greater design creativity resides within independent groups than in ‘owned’ consultancies entered a new phase this week with big branding groups taking top honours in the Benchmarks for outstanding work across various media.

In winning Best of Show with Macmillan Cancer Support, Wolff Olins flies the flag for the big groups, with its Omnicom stablemate Interbrand reinforcing the message, being nominated a runner up for the top accolade alongside independent group NB Studio.

Elsewhere, while smaller groups continue to make a strong showing, Interpublic Group-owned FutureBrand takes ‘best of category’ honours in Manufacturing. Meanwhile, projects by WPP stalwarts Enterprise IG, Fitch and The Partners merit publication in the Benchmarks book.

Independent groups figure large throughout the book, but it is interesting nonetheless to see the global giants having such a strong impact. It is particularly interesting coming shortly after Wolff Olins founder and erstwhile director Wally Olins spoke out for independence at an industry event.

Addressing a design audience at a dinner in London, Olins spoke of the big groups ‘putting process above creativity’. How much he included Wolff Olins in this observation is a matter for conjecture. It, after all, established the consultancy model, with consultants, working alongside creatives, using their might to gain access to client boardrooms. Others have tended towards the account handling strategy, which can put them lower down the chain of command.

The audience boggled at Olins’ apparent change of heart, but bowed to the great man’s wisdom. However, the Benchmarks outcome shows that things aren’t always that cut and dried.

The question now is whether Omnicom beats WPP and IPG on creativity. The Benchmarks results suggest it might – and that branding work created by its design groups is more consistent. Let battle commence, with Design Week’s Creative Survey and DW Awards as the arena.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor

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