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Industry furthers debate on de-coupling

At a joint industry forum held by the IPA, ISBA and CIPS last week, leading agencies, production, procurement and intermediaries entered into a lively debate on de-coupling.


At a joint industry forum held by the IPA, ISBA and CIPS last week, leading agencies, production, procurement and intermediaries entered into a lively debate on de-coupling.

Peter Buchanan, the COI’s Deputy Chief Executive, kicked off proceedings to provide a positive account of the COI’s ‘third way’. According to Buchanan, the main elements essential to de-coupling at the COI are: invest in appropriate in-house resources, involve the agency creative team throughout, access the latest technology and develop specialist knowledge. It is through this that the ‘third way’ is achieved, “to have your cake and eat it”, ie to de-couple production, without decoupling creativity. Buchanan believes that this process delivers cost savings but also, by being closer to the creative product, adds value.

In response to Peter’s presentation, the four panellists, including: Justin Cernis, Managing Director of Great Guns, Tom Kinnaird, Head of Commercial and Procurement Services at WPP, Frances Royle, Head of One Production at BBH and Simon Toaldo, CEO of Hub+, raised a number of challenges:

Cernis, of Great Guns, erred on the side of caution: “It’s taken the COI a long time, well over three years, to get to where they’ve got to. It takes time to get it to work. Their approach is not a quick fix or going to be right for everyone.”

Kinnaird, of WPP, advocated a balanced approach: “When I was in procurement in manufacturing, like the COI, we came to the conclusion that ‘make’ versus ‘buy’ was the way for us to do things. Both routes have consequences for a company’s balance sheet. You hire in resource on the one hand, and buy it on the other. Both alternatives can work. But the important thing is to make informed decisions."

Royle, of BBH, took a more controversial stance: “A client should have the right to de-couple agency production, but equally agencies have the right to argue that they can deliver. At BBH we believe that our production capability defines the quality of our work and delivers value. Clients come to us for the execution as well as the idea.
It was John Hegarty who said, ‘The idea is 80%, but 80% is the execution.’Our producers are very professional. We have to deliver the value and quality of the work.”

Toaldo, of The Hub+, challenged the need for creative involvement at all stages of the process: “As Peter was talking, I found myself nodding in his direction. When in agencies, my experience of working with the COI was positive. It was a good experience. However, there is a point in the process where input from creatives is no longer required, in both TV and print. I certainly believe that you can de-couple production without impacting creative quality.”

However it was Kinnaird who summed up the general outcome of the event, that despite the vehement arguments for and against decoupling from all sides of the industry, “There is no such thing as best practice in production decoupling. Best practice is what works at the right time and in the right way.”

Other issues raised as the discussion evolved included:
• The right answer for the right client at the right time – the need to do what is best for the client
• The ‘safe’ option – understanding where de-coupling can kick in
• The ‘high risk’ option – shared ‘responsibility’ leads to loss of ownership. Who’s to blame when things go wrong?
• Going direct – an efficient solution for less ‘high-end’ creative work
• Where agencies fall down – under-investment in some production depart-ments
• Agency production departments need to demand visibility and open dialogue with their clients
• Emerging media – there are different rules in the digital space
• The media agency threat – it is a dog eat dog world out there, and everyone is after each other’s lunch.

For full details on the forum proceedings please see the following marketing report, ‘De-coupling production without de-coupling creativity’.

Have your say:
Can the industry de-couple production without decoupling creativity?
Is the COI's Peter Buchanan right? Or is there no such thing as best practice in production decoupling; is it simply a case of what works at the right time and in the right way? Have you say at the Brand Republic blog and interactive poll:

Last updated 20/06/2008

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