Naked Brits Lead Current Ad Agency Communications Planning Trend


The days of brand agencies aspiring to be the “Lead Agency” are fast disappearing. Clients are increasingly turning to specialist communications planning agencies, to help them take a more informed approach to their integrated marketing initiatives. In many instances, the work of these truly media neutral agencies informs and directs all other roster agency assignments and work.

In the US we experienced the “British Invasion” from a music perspective during 1964-66, with bands like The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Kinks. Right now we are experiencing another British Invasion of a different sort: Brand Communications Planning agencies.

These agencies do no creative work or execution whatsoever. Some have developed very powerful planning tools/models, powered by a significant database of both quantitative and qualitative data, related to over 90 distinct marketing channels. They are channel planning experts and are probably the only breed of agencies who can honestly claim to be media neutral.  

One of the leaders of this invasion is a company called Naked Communications. A quick word of warning, do not go to after reading this post. It will only help to put you on the radar screen of your IT and HR department for improper use of the internet. (They have two distinct websites: and There are a number of others out there that all hale from the UK and have similarly bizarre names.

While most other agencies are out there running around claiming to be full service, fully integrated, media neutral and 360 degree agencies, specialist communications planning agencies, like Naked, are quietly and effectively taking control of more and more large advertising and marketing accounts. Early in 2008 Naked made the trade media headlines when they were awarded the Kimberley-Clark account. Take a look at what K-C said about the appointment in their press statement.

Tony Palmer, CMO at K-C, said in a statement that producing marketing efforts built around TV commercials is no longer relevant in today’s business environment. “It is incumbent on clients to take an active role in reshaping the model,” he said, adding that hiring Naked is a step in this direction. Naked’s role is to help K-C and its agency partners identify the best communications channels it can leverage, to execute specific brand programs.

Agencies like Naked usually do not replace the client’s lineup of creative and media buying agencies. Instead, Naked works like a consulting firm, advising on how to best use the roster agencies. This may cut into the revenue of traditional agencies. Kimberly-Clark, for example, did not increase its ad agency budget in order to pay for Naked’s services. Instead, the company “reallocated the spending” according to Hedy Lukas, Vice President for Integrated Marketing at Kimberly-Clark.

Not long after Naked’s appointment came the announcement from Kimberley Clark that it had decided to move a quarter of its spending into non-traditional media.

Not something a “traditional lead agency” would be likely to recommend.




4 Responses to Naked Brits Lead Current Ad Agency Communications Planning Trend

  1. eric pakurar says:

    Hey, thanks for the shout out, Clive. Much appreciated.

    Question for you though: You say that multiple agencies are offering integrated marketing communications. Who else do you see playing in this space?

    While IMC is a capability that a ton of agencies profess to offer, they in fact do not. They cannot, despite good intentions.

    Because most times, IMC is an add-on offering. Their business model is actually set up to produce a given execution (a tv spot, an event, a shelf-talker, or whatever else) — and as soon as they make money off the production of a given execution, their objective point of view is compromised. Even with the best of intentions, their reflex instincts and the structure of their business will encourage them down the path towards whatever they produce. It would take an extraordinary act of courage (or stupidity?) to steer a client away from an answer that made your agency money.

    You’re right, it does take a specialist agency, one with a business model like that of Naked — producing nothing, unbiased to the very core of the way their business works — to truly deliver IMC.

    But I don’t really see anyone else out there with a business model similar to that of Naked’s. Or with a different model that is also ideologically suited to IMC, for that matter. I’m just one guy, though, so I’d love to hear your point of view on it all.

    With thanks,
    Eric Pakurar
    Naked Communications

    • clivemaclean says:

      Thanks for the response. While I agree that Naked is without doubt unique in many ways, it is also not the only player. For instance Kraft also uses Big Green Door. Some of the holding companies have put together specialist units too. Steak and others in the UK claim similiar approaches.

      In my opinion, Naked is by far the leader.

      Take care

  2. krystal says:

    Hi Clive,
    Great article- you articulated the advantages of Naked’s model perfectly.

    I am fresh off my internship at Naked Communications New York- and it couldn’t have been a better experience.

    1.) Before interning there, I had read so much about Naked and wondered if it was one of those things that sounds great in the press/blogs etc., but would clients really value/pay for that and would roster agencies really play nice? The answer is yes- absolutely. And I saw in client meetings and calls, how the reliance on a truly neutral advisor/consultant such as Naked is growing.

    2.) I was impressed by their collective ability to predict what’s going to be in demand years down the road. Nine years ago they founded Naked realizing that the current model wasn’t going to cut it much longer and they were right, despite the naysayers. They recognized it long before IMC,’channel planning,’ ‘media agnostic’ were the buzzwords that they are today.
    To work somewhere that can make sense of all the changes happening now, but can also forecast the implications for the future was an outstanding opportunity.

    3.) Because they’re not housing creatives and production etc, their lean overhead is serving them well in an economy like this, making them even more of a value for their clients.

    It might sound like I just drank the company Kool-Aid, however, all can say is that I finished my internship wanting to go back after I finish school.
    I love what I learned from them, I was immediately welcomed into the Naked Family, and there was no barrier between the most junior like myself and the most senior strategists.
    Naked is simply smart company to keep- if you hire them, or work with them, you’ll see it too.

  3. clivemaclean says:

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Like you I too believe that Naked is the market leader in this space. I know Paul, John, Neal and John personally and have great respect for them as individuals and what they do. Hence my article on the changing game. They are quietly taking marketshare and most full service agencies are not aware of it. I respect you pov but also will tell you that there are are many more people out there who find this of interest.

    As for hating self promotion, I assume that you hate all advertising and marketing, as most is nothing more than self promotion of their brand and business.

    Thanks again. Have a great day.

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