Arun Sudhaman 18 May 2009 // 11:36AM GMT
MindShare is a restless agency. In the five years I have been covering them, they have always exhibited a kind of relentless drive to position themselves as anything other than humble buyers of media space. That is understandable, given dwindling margins, and the agency's big 'reinvention' last year, which I interviewed their global CEO Dominic Proctor about, was a good example of where it wants to go. Now, MindShare has found itself in the pages of PRWeek because of this story. Volvo has decided to hand its digital PR and SEO business to the media agency. It is a decision that has sparked considerable debate in the PR world, judging by the comments on the PRWeek story, along with the magazine's letter page. There have also been a number of blog posts addressing the topic, including the Volvo client's view, and MindShare's response. This is obviously a debate that is going to run for a while. When it comes to digital, there are no easy distinctions, and the advertising world is increasingly aware that earned media is an integral part of any online communication. I can't help but feel that, where online is concerned, PR agencies have been a little slow to capitalise on their inherent ability to manage dialogue - even if this means building in SEO capability. Just as importantly, the fact that MindShare is hiring good digital PR people will be of some concern to the PR world. Media agencies are often seen as being higher up the 'food chain', dealing with more senior clients because they are so close to the purse strings. And that is before we consider the moves that advertising agencies like Naked are making in this area. Ultimately, it is likely to come down to client demand. The Volvo client is clear that MindShare was the best agency for this brief. PR agencies, it seems, may need to get used to pitching against agencies from all of the marketing disciplines. Operating in isolation is no longer an option.