LONDON--CHI & Partners is the latest ad agency to fund a social media venture, tapping former Cohn & Wolfe digital head Steve Parker to help lead The Social Practice.

Parker will oversee the new unit with CHI’s head of digital strategy Patricia McDonald. The firm will aim to combine CHI’s creative abilities with the media planning and analytics skills of its mCHI arm.

Parker departed Cohn & Wolfe earlier this year to form The Social Practice, and has since been replaced by former Ketchum digital chief Fernando Rizo.

In recent months, ad agencies such as VCCP, Karmarama and BMB have all made moves to enter the social media and PR space.

The Social Practice already counts TalkTalk as a client, and has formed strategic alliances with WPP partners Visible Technologies and Buddy Media. Services include the typical range of social media skills - including business design, auditing and strategy, buying and planning, community management, design and build, monitoring, influencer outreach and reporting/analysis.

"Too many brands are getting a ‘one-eyed’ view of social media from their agencies depending on their creative, media or communications bias,” said Parker. “The Social Practice has social media written in to its DNA and as a result is able to offer brands an objective blend of the planning, creative and digital services they need to thrive in the age of the networked consumer.”

McDonald added that brands need a “truly joined up approach” to navigate the social web. “Perhaps even more significant is the power the social web gives consumers to come together without the intervention of brands or big businesses to share, co-own or crowd-fund products and services. This is a radical shift and one that suggests that the power of the social web to disrupt business models is only just beginning”.