Who has the best agency brands, Omnicom or WPP? Or might it be Publicis?

Advertising is bouncing back with a vengeance from the depths of the recession as big corporates (clients) realise that there’s market share out there to be grabbed and they’d better do it before some young upstart (like Reckitt-Benckiser) takes their business away from them.

So WPP, Publicis, Aegis and Havas have all recently reported good figures. Omnicom and Interpublic (IPG) will presumably do the same.

And now the ground seems to be shifting a bit, back to creativity. Big marcoms companies would do away with creatives if they could, they just cause too many problems and spend too much money.

But clients, bless them, are rather keen on their offerings. They don’t accept that they pay all that money for suits, nubile PAs and decent coffee in meetings.

I’m grateful to my old chum Stuart Smith at Marketing Week for this interesting perspective on WPP’s recently rekindled focus on creativity and the awards that seem to demonstrate it – all linked to the appointment of former BBH creative director John O’Keefe as the network’s creative supremo.

For it’s fact that WPP’s big agencies – JWT, O&M, Grey and Y&R – are less luminous in the creative firmament than Omnicom’s BBDO, DDB and TBWA.

IPG doesn’t really have anyone likely to frighten the creative horses on a global scale, Havas has Euro RSCG which is a considerable success story.

Publicis Groupe has highly-creative BBH (or 49 per cent of it) but BBH has been going through a bad patch. But Saatchi & Saatchi, which many people wrote off after the brothers went off to set up M&C Saatchi, has thrived mightily alongside, or despite, boss Kevin Roberts’ bizarre ‘Lovemarks’ theories.

And in some markets, the UK particularly, it works hand-in-glove with Fallon, a very potent creative combination.

At WPP JWT lost a lot when global creative director Craig Davis decided to go back to Oz and work for rival Publicis Mojo. It remains to be proven that boss Sir Martin Sorrell is really prepared to give creatives their head, Davis being a prime example.

But it would be a very good thing if agencies, and the big marcoms especially, were to be judged by their output as well as their numbers.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.