The World: Insider's View - US Media

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Driven by greater client demand for accountability and results, US media is beginning to shake off its conservative nature and change. In Campaign's US special report, John Wilkins, a founding partner of Naked, was quoted as saying "the US is a good ten years behind Europe" in terms of media strategy.

Parallel this criticism with the wave of conservatism gripping the US with George W Bush's second-term win and the US appears a society unable to respond to change, even when it is needed.

As media professionals in the US, our reluctance to change has caught up with us and we are now being forced into it. With a greater focus on accountability and results, clients will no longer pay more for less.

Meanwhile, consumers have never had so much choice and control.

Have we learned our lesson? Are we ready to change the way we think about engaging and connecting with consumers? The early returns say no. There was much posturing around the most recent TV upfront marketplace. Yet when it was all over, few had changed their ways.

But there is hope. The concept of total communications planning finally seems to be taking hold in US media agencies. In our own agency, embracing this process has meant a significant investment in both new modelling techniques and the new talent needed to make sense of the analytical insights these offer on consumers and businesses.

This talent is coming from a wide range of backgrounds - from traditional media agencies, account planning departments and interactive and digital divisions. This mix, embedded in the client services teams, offers a greater chance of exploiting and selling commercial opportunities beyond traditional above-the-line advertising.

Creative agencies are getting in on the act too, hiring media creatives.

This is not as far-reaching as it is in the UK: the larger creative agencies are still closely aligned with their media counterparts, so most TCP efforts are collaborative.

Media Planning Group's TCP department, Catalyst, works closely with Arnold and Euro RSCG.

The danger, of course, is that some agencies will simply stick the TCP label on their existing processes. But there seems to be a renewed sense of urgency to create change.

So, enjoy your superiority today, because the US is catching up fast.

While we'll have at least four more years of the same political party, it will not take that long for us to embrace the changes needed to ensure long-term client value.

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