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We may lose in Cannes or Rio but still rule at home

It's chest-beating, why-didn't-we-win season when we rather enjoy sitting around picking at our collective navel and moaning about why we didn't do better at Cannes and why we haven't won the World Cup. Again.

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I’m recklessly, bleakly assuming the Brits will be trounced by the Americans on the Croisette and that Roy’s boys aren’t going to be lifting the gold in Rio. I’d love to be embarrassingly wrong. But form’s on my side.

Before all that, I’m taking some patriotic/jingoistic glee in the news that Crispin Porter & Bogusky has (sort of) admitted it hasn’t really cracked London. Like scores of brilliant overseas agencies before it, CP&B hasn’t been able to create quite the same magic here (yet). "I love the creative work," Chuck Porter told me. "But I’m not happy with how fast we’ve grown."

So CP&B has bought The House – which my calculator says probably didn’t cost much since it has only been going just over a year, is based on an attractive but nebulous "open-source collaboration" model and has some decent clients but spending sums of undisclosed proportions.

What CP&B is really "buying" is some management class. I rather adore Ben Walker and Matt Gooden, and reckon the CP&B London duo deserve a management machine that will get them more business to wrap their creative lips around. Richard Pinder has a pretty decent record of that. I can’t see him downing pints in the local with the creatives behind the Paddy Power work, but perhaps that doesn’t matter. Perhaps.

CP&B is the latest of the ‘hot’ overseas agencies that have launched in London and really failed to get the line-up right

Anyway, CP&B is just the latest of the "hot" overseas agencies that have launched in London and really failed to get the line-up right. History recalls how titans such as DDB and BBDO had to buy local London agencies to kick-start their UK assault. Recently, Anomaly, BETC, Mcgarrybowen and CP&B have failed on the management front and had to regroup… the jury’s still out on Droga5.

The real problem is that you can’t put together an agency dream team – at least, not in a claustrophobic, personality-led market such as London’s – without really, really understanding the local talent pool; you can’t sit in New York or Boulder or Paris and construct on paper a team that will capture Britain. We still do that best here. And having a great reputation in another market won’t cut it with UK marketers, who barely know the name of London’s best agencies, let alone the world’s.

Of course, I could at this point talk about all the London-born agencies that have struggled to export their brand and – for that matter – the rather slow progress of most of the home-grown start-ups in the capital over the past few years. But I’m rah-rahing for the Brits here, so we’ll leave that for another time.

claire.beale@haymarket.com
@campaignmag

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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