SPOTLIGHT ON: MEDIA SPECIALISTS: What can media shops learn from the Millennium dispute? - Several media operations think the full-service era is over, Alasdair Reid says

By ALASDAIR REID, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 07 November 1997 12:00AM

It’s not uncommon these days to hear media specialists talking about the dawning of a new way of working. The industry is poised, we are told, for an evolutionary leap with media specialists claiming their rightful place at the head of the advertising food chain.

It’s not uncommon these days to hear media specialists talking

about the dawning of a new way of working. The industry is poised, we

are told, for an evolutionary leap with media specialists claiming their

rightful place at the head of the advertising food chain.



Having broken up the comfortable old full-service structures,

specialists have spent the past few years emerging from the shadow of

creative agencies.



Now they are achieving parity - accounts are almost always split, with

separate pitches for creative and media. The next stage will obviously

see a continuation of this trend, with media finally eclipsing

creative.



Clients will come to media companies first and creative tasks will only

be assigned when the media strategy has been thrashed out.



A convincing story. Wholly credible. Until something like last week’s

Millennium account squabble spoils the picture.



To recap: M&C Saatchi won the pounds 16 million New Millennium

Experience Company task in August. M&C Saatchi doesn’t have a media

department and, at that time, it didn’t even have equity in a media

company. It did, however, believe that it had the media buying account

in its gift - an old-fashioned full-service task. Walker Media, M&C

Saatchi’s new joint venture with Christine Walker, was regarded as a

shoo-in for the buying task (Campaign, last week).



It has taken a dusty old government department (NMEC will be spending

public money) to point out that perhaps there could have been a

competitive media pitch.



Problem is, the whole affair has awakened a suspicion that, actually,

the business does still work ’that way’. Clients appoint suits and

coloured pencils. Media is still that difficult bit, an awkward grey

area. Don’t creative agencies still have a disproportionate influence on

who gets the media?



Colin Gottlieb, the managing partner of Manning Gottlieb Media, doesn’t

like the word ’disproportionate’ but he does concede that it’s still an

important factor. He states: ’I’d say in terms of pitches that routinely

come along, half are effectively full-service media pitches with a team

comprised of a creative agency and a media company picking up the

business at one go. It’s complicated by the fact that media dependants

often pitch alongside parent agencies. When the dependant wins the

media, they tend to say they’ve won against two unnamed agencies. And

everyone goes, ’Oh yeah?’.’



But the worrying thing is that many specialists admit they will still

work as subcontractors to the creative agency rather than having a

contract with the client. Surely a sector that had aspirations to lead

the industry would be wise to start outlawing such relationships?



Gottlieb argues that being flexible is all part of helping to advance

media’s cause. ’Our view is that, if we do do it, we have something to

sell as a company and within a short space of time we will have

developed a close relationship with the client. If the creative agency

is fired we believe we will always stand a chance of staying on,’ he

says.



But many media specialists point out that the clients who cling to an

old mindset represent a small proportion of the market. Jim Marshall,

the chief executive of MediaVest, argues that where the top 50 spenders

are concerned, the business has very definitely changed, with media

being given a high priority. He says: ’Look at how many big clients have

centralised media. Where they are concerned, the game has moved on.’



But would he work for an agency rather than direct for the client? ’What

it comes down to, if we’re being honest, is that we’re all tarts. All

clients believe they are special and different and want things done

their way. We’ll consider anything. There are no rules.’



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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