Thursday 20 June 2019

Core steps out of its comfort zone with creative offering

Core announced it was appointing Liam Wielopolski - the chief creative director of DDB in Johannesburg - as executive creative director (ECD), a new position which has been created within the group. Photo: Getty
Core announced it was appointing Liam Wielopolski - the chief creative director of DDB in Johannesburg - as executive creative director (ECD), a new position which has been created within the group. Photo: Getty

John McGee

A couple of weeks ago, Core, the country's biggest marketing communications group, threw down the gauntlet to its rivals in the Irish advertising industry.

With over 300 staff working across nine different disciplines - ranging from media planning and buying right through the market research and professional educational services - the group was making a serious statement of intent when it announced it was appointing Liam Wielopolski - the chief creative director of DDB in Johannesburg - as executive creative director (ECD), a new position which has been created within the group.

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In adland, executive and chief creative directors come and go all the time. In fact, given the many changes taking place within the global advertising industry at the moment, hardly a day goes by without an announcement that some big-wig creative director is off to join a newly-formed agency that fuses behavioural data with lunar cycles or some such nonsense.

But for Core, a group that has grown rapidly in recent years - largely on the back of its profitable media agency brands, including Starcom, Mediaworks, Spark Foundry and Zenith - Wielopolski's appointment is significant for a number of reasons. For a start, it puts the group's creative offering firmly in place, a key part of its five-year strategy to grow the business. Now it can offer everything from creative, media, research, planning, sponsorship all under the one roof.

In the good old days this was called a full service agency, but somewhere along the line the clever people running international agency networks decided they could make more money by de-coupling just about everything they could think of. Now, however, with the benefit of hindsight and a feel for what it's like to come last in the race to the bottom, agencies and their holding companies are valiantly striving to reinvent themselves - mainly because their clients are looking to save some money on their marketing and advertising budgets and want more transparent, efficient and less onerous structures when it comes to dealing with agencies.

A friend of mine who is head of marketing for a well-known Irish brand, has no fewer than seven different agencies reporting into her. Some of these specialise in the more obvious areas like media, creative and PR, planning and that most outdated of all marketing disciplines, below-the-line. What line? There is no line and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I also know of one international marketing director in Ireland who, up until two years ago, had 11 different agencies reporting into her on a weekly basis. This is clearly nonsense and shows the extent of how the big holding groups were allowed run amok and seduce clients through the greatest display of smoke and mirrors ever staged.

But hats off to any business that strives to make itself more relevant, more useful and embed itself more in its client's business. All over the world agencies are trying to change to adapt to the new market realities and create the so-called agency of the future. What this agency of the future might look like nobody knows: because the future will always be, well, in the future.

In the case of Core, however, ramping up its creative offering is seen by many as a good move and comes at a time when the likes of Accenture Interactive are snapping up creative shops all around the world. Core has been offering creative services to clients for over a year and the current campaign for Lily O'Brien's chocolates and the recruitment campaign for An Garda Síochána were created by the group. But with the appointment of Wielopolski and creative consultancies with Mike Garner, one of the founders of Chemistry and more recently creative director of Ogilvy, Core is sending out the right signals.

As Core's different media agencies already control around 32pc of all media buys in the Irish market, the room for further growth in media is going to be limited. So why not try and woo their existing media clients with their creative offering? All it will take is one or two big creative account moves to make a big difference to its growth trajectory. But, of course, only time will tell.

Core is by no means the only marketing communications business to have reinvented itself over the past few years. And it's certainly not the first media-heavy marketing communications company to dip its toe in the often choppy creative waters. The reality is that in 2019, PR companies are creating traditional press and video campaigns, media agencies are creating online creative, traditional creative shops are being upended by in-house agencies like Oliver, digital agencies are making linear TV ads and consultancy groups are creating customer experience initiatives. Everybody's lunch is on the table, everybody is fair game, so why not join them?

Long live the long lunch

The TAM Ireland Long Lunch is back again on October 7 and once again guests will be wined and dined and treated to a talk by marketing expert. This time it's Rory Sutherland, the vice chairman of Ogilvy Group, executive creative director of OgilvyOne London and one of the most followed men in marketing. A frequent visitor to these shores, Sutherland is always highly entertaining and will share all sorts of behavioural insights that will be of interest to marketers. Tickets are already on sale.

Publicis wins top agency

Hats off to the Publicis Dublin for picking up no fewer than 10 awards at the An Post Smart Marketing Awards which were held in Dublin's Mansion House last week.

The agency, which is headed up by Padraig Burns, also picked up the coveted Agency of the Year award on the night. Other winners included Javeli, Connelly Partners,Ask Direct, Goosebump, Siro, Skoda Ireland and Fifty Three Six.

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