Media: A moment with Marquis

By Simon Marquis, the chairman of ZenithOptimedia,, Friday, 29 October 2004 12:00AM

I have to confess to shocking "first-night nerves" about this column. Feelings of excitement and anticipation have given way to fears that Campaign readers will have more important things to fill their days with and so I will remain a readerless zone, my ravings plunging unheard into the ether.

Another major worry is that I'll do a Boris Johnson. It's a dead cert that I'll write something that annoys someone and be forced to visit a metaphorical Liverpool to atone for my sins. To those I piss off, abject apologies in advance. Put it down to Grumpy Old Man syndrome.

Then there is the title of the column. Terrible cold feet about this. You're bound to regard a "Moment with Marquis" as a moment squandered, or a moment of madness. A moment more profitably employed calling a client, trying to work your new Blackberry or lolling "On the Campaign Couch with JB".

But apart from those few butterflies, the knuckles are cracked, the blank sheet beckons from the gleaming Royal typewriter and Campaign has (perhaps foolishly) given me a generously broad brief.

The media world, thank goodness, has never been more interesting or challenging. Media are now so powerful they frequently become the story itself (for example, the BBC and the Dodgy Dossier). They must answer more searching moral questions than ever. What responsibility, for example, do the British media have in relation to our part in the war in Iraq? What part do Al Jazeera and the internet play in the hostage crisis? Could there even be a hostage crisis without the instant, global access they provide? Perhaps the medium is not the message but more important than it, viz the imminent US presidential election - a media event as much as a political one. Tony Blair has to be a media strategist as well as a political one.

And what of our own neck of the media woods? It has never been more innovative, more accountable or more effective. Nor so swamped in bullshit, so bitterly competitive, so distanced from the creative part of advertising, so uncertain about its value to business.

Issues we could and should have cracked years ago remain the subject of industry-wide prevarication. Media agencies, born on a wave of high inflation and interest rates, struggle to balance the demands of parent networks with those of client procurement departments.

Integration, media neutrality, total communications - so much to discuss, so little time! You couldn't spare me a moment, could you?

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