2001 volume 33(2) pages 351 – 374

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Grabher G, 2001, "Ecologies of creativity: the Village, the Group, and the heterarchic organisation of the British advertising industry" Environment and Planning A 33(2) 351 – 374

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Ecologies of creativity: the Village, the Group, and the heterarchic organisation of the British advertising industry

Gernot Grabher

Received 2 February 2000; in revised form 24 November 2000

Abstract. In the 1980s, the hegemony of the large US advertising networks has been challenged by a new breed of London-based agencies who pioneered what is known in the trade as 'second wave'. On the one hand, second wave implied the emancipation of Soho from an 'outpost of Madison Avenue' to the 'advertising village' on the basis of momentous product and process innovations. On the other hand, a few London agencies rose to global top positions on the crest of the second wave by transforming themselves from international advertising networks into global communication groups. This paper starts from the assumption that both, the localised cluster of advertising agencies in the advertising village (the 'Village') and the global communications group (the 'Group'), share basic principles of social organisation. It aims at demonstrating that the organisational logic of both the Village and the Group can be conceptualised in terms of a heterarchy. By drawing on case-study evidence from Soho on the one hand and from the world leading communications business, WPP, on the other, the five basic features of heterarchies -- diversity, rivalry, tags, projects, and reflexivity -- will provide the conceptual tools for the investigation into the social organisation of the Village and the Group.

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