campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 18 April 2008 12:00AM
London media agencies have (almost) stopped agonising about The Gunn Report on media creativity. When Gunn added a media section in 2004, it revealed that the collective points total racked up by British agencies easily outstripped the collective total of the country's nearest rival, the US.
This was, as you'd expect, noted with interest, if not exactly wild excitement. The UK media agency community struck an almost perfect pose of false modesty, underpinned with just the right sort of subtle hints of militant smugness, as it greeted the news.
Well, of course, the UK was bound to come out top. Hadn't London invented the media agency - and in the process taken the business on to a whole new level? Most other markets - and this included the US - just made TV ads and used big budgets to bludgeon them into the public consciousness.
So there were ripples of minor disquiet the next year when the US's score outstripped the UK's. No need for panic though - the US boasts so many agencies running vast numbers of campaigns, that, through sheer weight of numbers, it has to get lucky now and again.
And when it happened again the following year, there were even more interesting (and slightly more desperate) attempts at analysis. The US, perversely, was perhaps benefiting from the fact that it had been so slow to launch media specialists - having arrived late, and having spent more time assessing all the angles - their thinking was now more up-to-date.
Or, alternatively, the report only went to show that media awards (Gunn derives its score by analysing agency performance in local and international awards) are, when you think about it, a bit of a joke. No-one takes them seriously, right?
In this year's report, covering awards performance during 2007, the UK yet again comes out second best behind the US. And at some level we're a lot more comfortable with that outcome.
These days we tend to acknowledge that (if we accept the premise that Gunn does, in fact, describe a real phenomenon) our eclipse is perhaps linked with structural factors. It has, in short, coincided with the departure (they've either moved to other sectors or been kicked upstairs into international management roles) of the last remnants of the entrepreneurial generation that created the UK's pioneering media agencies and, in the process, cemented the UK's reputation as the world hub of fiendishly clever media thinking.
Media networks are completing the final stages of their homogenisation drive - and perhaps more than anything, The Gunn Report's take on media reflects this. Now it's a network game. And the winner, for the fourth year running, is arguably the most homogeneous network of the lot - OMD.
1. The Gunn Report for Media allocates points according to an agency's performance in local, regional and global media awards schemes - for instance, Cannes, The Clios and The One Show.
2. OMD was the most-awarded media network worldwide during 2007, with 234 points, more than double the score of second-placed MindShare, which is up from third place last year. The poorest performance was that of Starcom MediaVest, second last year, but down to fifth this time around. In contrast, the best (and most controversial) performance was recorded by the creative agency network BBDO, which appeared from nowhere to take third place, largely on the strength of its participation in Nike's much-awarded "Barrio Bonito" initiative.
3. And there are few surprises where holding company standings are concerned. Last year, Group M narrowly beat Omnicom Media Group to the top spot. This year, the standings are reversed - though this time around, OMG is miles ahead of its rival (461 points against 350). These two were followed by Publicis Groupe Media, Interpublic Media Council, Aegis and Havas.
4. Campaign of the Year was "Barrio Bonito" for Nike, which involved the company backing a makeover of La Boca, the tough, football-obsessed district of Buenos Aires. It commissioned football-related murals, opened a football museum, sponsored urban play areas and used the whole as a backdrop for ads.
5. This helped Nike achieve top spot in the Advertiser of the Year rankings, ahead of Coca- Cola, McDonald's, Adidas, Axe (Lynx in the UK) and Nissan.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...
- It used to be comparatively easy to hold to the view that advertisers were totally oblivious to media creativity rankings such as those offered by The Gunn Report. But that's a proposition that becomes increasingly untenable when Gunn is sponsored by the world's biggest media spender - Procter & Gamble.
- Brian Jacobs, the managing director of the media strategy consultancy Brian Jacobs & Associates, argues that there's been a significant cultural shift in recent years. Not so long ago, few major clients would have sent media people to, for instance, Cannes. Now the big advertisers are there in force. When it comes to awards, they take note of who's doing well and who isn't.
- And he adds: "Creativity is an important factor in all sectors of the advertising business. It may not always be called creativity where media agencies are concerned, but a brief will, say, ask agencies to give examples of how they have solved problems in the past. Clients are always looking for originality as a stand-out factor. And obviously, all other things being equal, it can make a real difference in a pitch."
- All agencies take this seriously. Apart, that is, from the ones that take it with a large pinch of salt. Dominic Proctor, the MindShare Worldwide chief executive, explains: "We value creativity as much as anything else, but have never really taken the majority of awards ceremonies seriously. They have been too much about rewarding stunts. So, frankly, I don't look at the reports and don't worry about them. But creativity stays at the top of our agenda."
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk