Creative things can come in small packaging groups

It will be a great shame to see Springpoint cease as a standalone entity as another quasi-independent creatively led consultancy is subsumed into a bigger sister group.

It is particularly sad in this case as the deal struck by Springpoint founders Fiona Gilmore and Mark Pearce in 2001 with FutureBrand-owner Interpublic Group allied the London-based branding group with a complementary IPG business, PR company Golin/Harris International, to enhance its standing rather than to dilute it.

Of course, things in business move fast and rarely have marketing services gone through such a tough time. At a time of expediency we can expect IPG’s rationale for such a move to centre on the perceived client needs, coupled with a tidier financial approach to the business.

But are the likes of IPG right to assume clients want integrated global services? Maybe it’s true in the corporate world, where communications strategies have to work across all platforms, but is it the case on the packaging side of branding – a part of Springpoint’s work?

Packaging clients appear less concerned with the ‘global reach’ much vaunted by supergroups like FutureBrand and WPP Group’s branding flagship Enterprise IG than with getting good creative work and building relationships with consultancies they trust.

For one major Continental drinks client that increasingly means seeking out independents or at least the ‘personalities’ within the conglomerates. And he says he is not alone.

‘What has happened to Tutssels?’, he asked recently, dismayed to find it merged into Enterprise IG. For him this follows the unwelcome disappearance of several trusted local groups in Europe, first into IPG’s Coleman Group and subsequently into FutureBrand. He debunks what he sees as the myth of global integration within creative conglomerates. With his drinks brand planning a launch in the Americas, he flew to the US to meet the local creative head of one of the big branding groups and his counterpart from the Continent. Neither ‘colleague’ knew each other and the US man knew nothing of the brand. So much for a global offer.

It is unlikely this is an isolated case, or that the situation is limited to consumer brands. One former creative head of a supergroup’s corporate business has found it easy to go solo because clients resent paying the fees some groups charge when they can get a similar service from newer collaborative ventures.

This scenario isn’t new. Digital designers and others have been there. But it suggests the claims by the supergroups aren’t always well founded. Big isn’t always best. and global doesn’t necessarily surpass local.

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