P&G knows the score on conflict

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Procter & Gamble is yet again leading the way-this time in helping to break down the dated and debilitating notion of agency conflict.

By agreeing to co-exist within WPP (now with added Grey), the Cincinnati giant has made a clear statement about the irrelevance of the conflict concept.

Let's be clear here: There are already hundreds of marketers housed within the same holding company as their competitors, so this is by no means a one-off. Let's also be clear that there will likely be Grey clients that will react to perceived conflict and move some or all of their business. But when trendsetters P&G and Unilever accept the concept of firewalls within a holding company, especially in such a public case as this, other marketers sit up and take notice.

And so they should, because conflict is an anachronism.

With the frequent movement of executives from one company to another, selecting different holding companies from your main rivals has never been a surefire guarantee that competitive intelligence is not shared. Properly organized and administered firewalls between two networks that share the same holding company can be as effective as selecting different holding companies.

Marketers should be focused on the best way to reach their consumers, on researching and anticipating consumer needs and on creating consumer demand. To select an agency based on "avoiding conflict" rather than choosing the best shop to achieve those aims demonstrates an unhealthy obsession with the competition rather than the consumer.

Worse still, it creates a restricted market in which holding companies can win work, or at least get on shortlists, by dint of which clients they don't have, rather than by dint of the solutions they offer to marketers. There are few enough viable options available to the major global marketers without having conflict further restrict choice.

Many marketers, and the best holding companies, stand to benefit if conflict is finally consigned to the history file.

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