Media Perspective: Why veterans must ensure retention of young media talent

By Ian Darby, ian.darby@haymarket.com, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 05 February 2010 12:00AM

Last week's appointment of Jim Marshall left me wondering if Aegis Media is becoming a rest home for the old folk of media.

Marshall, who joins Aegis as its chief client officer, is the latest industry veteran to join Aegis' chief executive, Nigel Sharrocks, in an armchair gathered around the sitting-room fire - following in the slippered footsteps of his former Starcom MediaVest Group colleague Mark Cranmer and Steve Platt, the former Carlton sales director turned Aegis trading director.

Of course, this is a deeply patronising view of the situation because Sharrocks seems to be on to something in collecting such senior operators around him. Since joining Aegis in a consultancy role, Cranmer has been elevated to a global, full-time role at Isobar, while Platt maintains a reputation as one of the toughest traders around - his knowledge of where the skeletons lie in broadcasting is vital in such a precarious trading environment.

Critics suggest there is a danger in all this. Despite Sharrocks' view that operators such as Marshall can offer a "tremendous wealth of experience", detractors argue that the same old faces popping up repeatedly restricts an industry that should be preoccupied with sourcing new talent that understands emerging media from top to bottom.

Recent events, especially involving commercial broadcasters making some comically bad decisions, have led to calls for a culling of the old guard who aren't digital natives. This seems wrong-headed to me. What's needed is a good blend of people, and media leaders who understand how to make money from new opportunities - something that Aegis, the creator of Isobar and successful UK brands such as Diffiniti and Vizeum, has managed in recent years. It's not all about developing iPhone apps and social media strategies. A key part of the media business continues to centre on ensuring that clients are happy and that a business has a solid commercial footing.

The deeper problem, I suspect, for the media industry is linked to persistent anecdotes that voluntary redundancy schemes at various media owners and agencies have been vastly over-subscribed. It seems, given a decent settlement, many in media are opting to leave the industry and consider new options because it's become a more unpleasant, less challenging arena in which to work.

It is this depressing trend, rather than agencies employing "veteran" talent, that is endangering the equilibrium of the media industry. I think it's great to see these old boys round the fire - but they, and the likes of Aegis, have to take some responsibility and develop strategies to make media enjoyable and rewarding again. Unless they succeed in this responsibility, then the days of the wise old media veteran could be coming to an end due to disillusion and burn-out.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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