PR giant Weber Shandwick to challenge ad agencies with in-house creative department

Interpublic-owned Weber Shandwick, which claims to be the world’s biggest PR company, is entering the content game in London with the creation of what amounts to a 12-strong in-house creative department.

The company, led by chairman Lord Chadlington (Peter Gummer as was) and CEO Colin Byrne describes this process as ‘end-to-end idea management’ and told PR Week it wanted to own the content as well as produce it for its clients.

The new division, called Creation, is the brainchild of chief innovation officer Ben Padfield who says: “Our future as a business resides in end-to-end idea management – from ideation, to production, to activation, to measurement.”

One reason for the move is to try to hang on to some (or all) of the £2m or so of creative work the company outsources each year. Whether or not it’s quite the ‘revolution’ in PR its supporters claim is open to debate.

There has been a turf war between ad agencies and PR companies for years over who produces the brightest ideas and makes the biggest contribution to client marketing programmes. Freud Communications owner Matthew Freud has often been dismissive about the contribution agencies make (despite being a shareholder in both Engine Group and M&C Saatchi and selling then buying back his own company from, first, Omnicom and then Publicis Groupe).

But there’s no doubt that the eagerness of many clients to make films for online channels like YouTube has left the door ajar for other companies to invade ad agency space. While they might not trust the likes of Creation with a big broadcast TV campaign they might give it a whirl on YouTube.

As ever it’s a question of how good the creatives are.

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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.