Do clients care about agency names?

Do clients care about agency names?

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Will Euro RSCG’s change to Havas Worldwide make a significant impact, John Tylee wonders.

Euro RSCG is not a name that will be much missed on the global marcoms stage. Having struggled to overcome its relative anonymity since its arrival 21 years ago, the network has taken on the name of its Havas parent.

Its new incarnation as Havas Worldwide – “Euro RSCG was always a ludicrous name,” an intermediary remarks – has some obvious advantages. For one thing, it gives a neater and tidier appearance to a disparate operation whose identity crisis is a legacy of growing through acquisition.

For another, it provides greater opportunity for better bonding and more of a shared vision among its 11,000 staff, as well as greater synergy between creative, media and digital.

David Jones, the Havas chief executive, claims that not only does the rebranding take integration to new levels, but it makes life easier for clients trying to achieve successful collaboration between their creative, media and digital specialists.

Clients, though, may need some convincing about the claimed benefits.

Matt McDowell is the Northern Europe marketing director at Toshiba, which has worked with Euro RSCG in Germany and Spain. He says: “The problem is that agencies internalise these issues too much. All that clients want is quality and value for money.”

While this may be true, there is little dispute that Euro RSCG could use a higher profile. Described by one intermediary as “Championship rather than Premier League”, the network is said to suffer from not having a signature account and owning agencies of varying quality.

At the London agency, the success of Russ Lidstone, the chief executive, in getting on to pitchlists is hampered by the fact that a lot of its best work, notably for clients such as Pernod Ricard, is not seen in the UK, industry onlookers claim.

Will a new name improve matters? “It tidies things up,” Peter Cowie, the Oystercatchers managing partner, comments. “But it’s not a game-changer. Clients’ only real concern is the quality of the people they work with.”

Some, though, believe the Havas move is in tune with what clients are demanding. “Increasing numbers of them are looking for integrated solutions,” Stuart Pocock, The Observatory’s managing partner, says. “With budgets flat, marketers want more from their agencies while paying for less people. The question is: can networks really do it?”

Moreover, the emphasis on its integrated structure presupposes that Havas Worldwide has the kind of offering that many big new-business prospects will want to buy.

“It’s quite rare for big clients to review all their communication needs in one go,” an intermediary points out. “Groups like Ogilvy recognise this by having a number of separate doors through which clients can walk and which allows cross-selling to take place.”

Meanwhile, there is the question of whether the Havas name will resonate with enough clients well beyond its Paris base. “I thought Havas was a South African company,” Jeff Dodds, Virgin Media’s executive director, brand and marketing, confesses. “Euro RSCG is a much more familiar brand to me.”

So is a name change pointless? “Not necessarily,” he adds.

“As long as there are sound strategic reasons for it rather than superficial ones, and as long as those reasons are explained properly to clients, that’s fine,” he continues. “After all, consolidations and name changes happen more often in advertising than just about any other industry in the world. Us clients are pretty relaxed about it.”

Victoria Sinclair