Advertisers’ inflexibility over account conflicts could be a thing of the past if a new policy adopted by European ad agencies is successful – assuming always that they are prepared to stand and be counted in any ensuing confrontation with their paymasters.

The European Association of Communications Agencies hopes to bring the industry into line with other professional service providers such as lawyers and management consultants. It argues that the rigid attitude of some clients over account conflicts is effectively a restraint of trade and unrealistic at a time when agencies and clients are consolidating into ever tighter groups.

According to Rupert Howell, president of Britain's Institute of Practitioners in Advertising: “Matters have reached such a stage that financial services clients looking for a Top Thirty agency face an impossible job if they are not prepared to accept conflict."

In line with this thinking, EACA is to issue new guidelines which propose that clients demanding exclusivity pay a premium for the privilege. It posits that client security risks arising from conflict are exaggerated and urges its members to do more to evangelise the efficacy of "Chinese walls".

Whilst not enforceable, the guidelines are understood to have the informal blessing both of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and a number of selection consultancies involved in running account reviews.

For the latter, Andrew Melsom, managing director of Agency Insight, is sympathetic to the agencies’ case: "Unless clients can accept the principle of conflicting accounts in the same building we will run out of competencies.”

Agency Assessments International managing director David Wethey agrees: "It is legitimate for an agency to put a premium price on exclusivity."

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)