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Last week digital design consultancy Zapp Communications bought Delco Design Group in the belief that smaller players must unite through merger and acquisition to compete. Is this the only way?

‘Certainly not. It’s my belief that smaller specialist companies are better equipped to keep pace with the speed of change in the digital world. Dependent on the focus and breadth of client requirements, “best of breed” niche players can deliver the best solutions, and more cost-effectively, too. Mergers and acquisitions as a principle are not easy to manage successfully at the best of times. It’s fine if the organisations have been working together successfully over a period of time, and share culture and aspirations, but to force companies together artificially is risky. Our marketplace isn’t mature enough to dictate convergence of multiple players.’

NEIL LAMONT, MANAGING DIRECTOR, REFLEX NEW MEDIA

‘It depends what you want to compete on. You should only compete on the quality of your creative work. To that end, we have loose associations with other consultancies with similar values and passions to our own. This can add to our offer if the projects require specialisms that we don’t have. If you merge you have to focus on running a larger business, with the inevitable politics, and you may take your eye off the main issue – the end product. The consequence is a colder, less passionate business rather than an inspirational team producing great design.’

BRUCE DUCKWORTH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, TURNER DUCKWORTH

‘The real question here is “Does size matter?” There will always be interesting work for the small, specialist groups. But as more client businesses begin to evaluate their second, third and fourth generation on-line activities in the harsh light of economic reality, they are looking to larger players in order to “de-risk” as much as possible. The challenge to the merged consultancies is less about size and more about integration.’

STEVE POTTS, HEAD OF CREATIVE CONSULTING, RUBUS

‘No, this is not the only way. Small companies have an ability to develop compelling niche offerings and efficiency, and they can quickly react to market demands. Also, a positive working culture in a small organisation can be difficult to hold on to through mergers and acquisitions.’

OLOF SCHYBERGSON, EXPERIENCE NETWORK LEAD, RAZORFISH LONDON

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