THE advertising industry is currently facing one of its toughest times ever.While the cyclical nature of many major accounts underpins the market, analysts are talking about a fundamental change in the nature of marketing in WA.Stephen Wells’ decision to leave 303, the advertising agency he founded 12 years ago, is in part the results of concern about where this fragile market is headed.At the heart of the matter, for Mr Wells, is a contracting market and a shortsighted focus on cost that undermines quality.“I definitely think the industry is at a difficult stage and the symptoms are a contraction of the market. It’s actually difficult to see how it will turn around. The fact that Chicken Treat bought Red Rooster is a good move but it probably won’t bring much back,” he said.A strong market needs a critical number of active agencies, he said, working at all different levels, from the big agencies like Marketforce and The Brand at the top to creative hot-shops and all the supplier industries that cluster around them.“The consolidation of businesses into larger agencies is not necessarily in the best interests of the market or the clients,” Mr Wells said.“And the quality of the work being produced has declined significantly.“I think even some of the large agencies are struggling financially.“If I was a client I’d be looking at the situation and asking where you can get world-class work.“We’re in a global market and I can’t see too much global work coming out of this market.”Perth has always performed admirably in the creative awards shows, both nationally and internationally.“I think the quality of creative in Perth has been very good but I look at some of the stuff being produced now and it’s pretty woeful,” Mr Wells said.The advertising industry is still smarting from ‘The Brand effect’, whereby a number of high volume, big budget accounts moved into new digs at The Brand.Industry insiders suggest a strong culture of service has underpinned The Brand’s success.The relationship between the agency and the client is a delicate balance. However, as Mr Wells looks back on his time at 303, he claims clients and agencies need to seek true partnerships.“To its credit 303 has always been very forthright in telling clients exactly how it sees it,” Mr Wells said.“303 is not a subservient partner. It’s a genuine partner-ship based on frank and open discussion.“And if you look at the quality of work produced for Bank-West, WA Tourism Commission and HBF, it’s world class, and that doesn’t come from a relationship where you always do what the client wants.”Although Mr Wells maintains the future is bright for 303, the leisure industry is now his focus.An interest in emerging advertising technologies, including interactive television, will underpin Mr Wells’ approach to marketing leisure at V3.Mr Wells has been a non- executive director of the company, and the break from 303 will allow him to explore some new terrain with manager and former WA Tourism Commission boss, Shane Crockett.“We’re launching V3 around June,” Mr Wells said. “It’s a really innovative way of marketing and managing leisure and, in my view, it’s a sense of what the future holds.”
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