Is WPP’s Possible Worldwide embarking on mission impossible?

On the face of it it seems sensible enough to pull four WPP-owned digital agencies – New York’s Schematic, Bridge Worldwide in Cincinnati, Blue Interactive in Singapore and Quasar in New Delhi – together to form global network Possible Worldwide.

Lots of digital pitches are regional or global these days so a network is a handy thing even though Possible is still dwarfed by Publicis Groupe’s Digitas and Razorfish.

But it can also be argued that traditional creative agencies have fought back strongly against the challenge from digital agencies and that these days the really compelling offerings are from either digitally fortified creative shops or mergers of trad creative and digital agencies, like Cossette Group’s combo of Dare and MCBD in the UK.

Bartle Bogarty Hegarty, which used to own 30 per cent of Dare, sold out in 2007 to concentrate on boosting its own digital offering, going on a hiring spree of digital people even as it was cutting ten per cent of its headcount in 2009.

Clients too may have come to the conclusion that committing to a regional or global digital agency network and a creative agency is a recipe for turf wars and a costly agency spend.

Most digital agencies began as designers of websites and then online ads. But increasingly the big money seems to be in media derivatives, helping to steer clients through the maze of social media through the development of so-called trading desks and the like.

WPP digital boss Mark Read invested $5m of the company’s money in Buddy Media last year, a company which specialises in managing international campaigns across Facebook. Buddy Media is one of a number of such media specialists attracting investors desperate to gain a piece of the all-conquering social media site.

Attention-grabbing creativity in the digital sphere these days is far more likely to be a big budget TV film (very often one which only runs once at full length in the Super Bowl or during an X Factor final) which then has a life on the internet and, in a cut down form, traditional and online broadcast.

You don’t actually need to be a digital wizard to do this although having a few around probably helps.

So forming a global network may be only the first of Possible Worldwide’s tasks. The next (and arguably more important) will be deciding which sort of digital agency it wants to be: creative or media.

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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.
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