International Business Media: The cream of international

Campaign's peer poll of the international business scene has revealed which brands, businesses and people are most respected by the sector itself. Robin Hicks takes a look at the results.

The one thing international business media could do without is another survey. Europe's high-flyers must be thoroughly bored of being quizzed on their media habits.

So it is with some reservation that Campaign introduces one of its own, although instead of pestering the C-suite, we turned the questions on the sector itself. Which agencies does it admire most? Who are its top salespeople? Who has helped push international out of the shadow of the domestic media scene?

Top of the media agency table is MindShare, which is slowly becoming the Chelsea of international media, generously supported by a wealthy owner and in the habit of winning.

The WPP shop landed the biggest catch of 2004 when it won Unilever's $1.25 billion European media business. Samsung followed and Motorola is believed to be on the way. With its campaigns for IBM and HSBC, it is proving size needn't smother creativity.

MindShare Worldwide, the agency's international department, was once, like those of its rivals, little more than a co-ordination point for a few multimarket accounts. Spreadsheets skills and a foreign language were the main conditions of employment. Now, though, MindShare's international team on The Strand in London is 130-strong, having added 50 staff since 2002, who are planning and buying some interesting cross-border deals for the likes of Ford and Nike.

"It's a very efficient machine, a real juggernaut," Jonathan Davies, the senior vice-president of international sales at CNN, an ex-MindShare managing partner and fourth in our table of highest-rated sellers, says.

"When I was there, international was seen as a graveyard for people who couldn't cut it in domestic. That has completely changed. MindShare has realised that having a strong international offering is a big point of difference," he adds.

Davies might wince at our table of international business TV brands (or news brands with business programming), in which his channel is one all-important place beneath BBC World.

CNN, 25 years old this year, has led the field of global newsgathering since Ted Turner gave the world the rolling news format in 1980. Turner, who features high up our table of international media pioneers, was the first to recognise an emerging market of travellers who want a global news perspective.

"For many of us, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Turner said on CNN's 25th birthday in June, referring to the 70 or so channels that now broadcast 24 hours news.

BBC World is its most potent threat. Although CNN still enjoys far wider global reach (around two billion), its growth has slowed in recent years.

BBC World, which launched in 1991, is one of the fastest-growing channels in the sector, now available to 256 million homes worldwide.

Fraser Riddell, the head of international at MediaCom, says of the two news brands: "There are always two things going on in your mind. The brand you buy into personally, and the channel that is the most effective vehicle for your clients. Personally and psychologically, I've got a closer relationship with the BBC World brand. But for the part of me that is international and has lots of customers to reach, it's CNN."

He adds: "The numbers are there, and the viewers are there. CNN is not a complacent number one, and its team is very commercially focused - it's good at pushing new ideas and developing new programming."

CNN and BBC World are different enough to co-exist quite happily on the international media scene. Although they spend much of their time insisting their brands are truly global, both have perceptible geographical roots.

But this shouldn't matter. Viewers need a US source to be qualified by a non-US source, and vice versa.

More importantly, these brands and others such as CNBC, Bloomberg and Sky News are needed to keep international media growing as a whole. TV and web properties have been the only media to show consistent audience growth over the past five years, while international print titles have struggled to keep hold of readers. Big news stories such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11 have unfolded on rolling news channels like blockbuster thrillers, winning thousands of new viewers in the process.

As for advertising, international TV's most potent weapon has been branded content. While its domestic peers are hamstrung by broadcast regulations, international TV brands have been able to allow advertisers to get much closer to the editorial product.

But, Liz Jones, the European sales director of CNBC Europe, warns, broadcasters and advertisers mustn't get carried away. "Branded content was once a way to boost the international media economy. It can be really quite cheap and effective. But there's too much of it already and, if it's done badly, it's little more than pollution."

Jones is international media's most well-thought-of salesperson. Genuine and not given to hyperbole, she isn't your typical sales type. CNBC is a tough sell, up against the might of CNN and BBC World in the news sector and the FT and FT.com in the business sector. But, planner-buyers say, with Jones on board, they are taking more notice of the CNBC offering. (Under Jones, CNBC Europe's advertising revenues have grown by 28 per cent this year.)

After an early spell at PHD, Jones spent seven years at Eurosport before joining CNBC in January last year. In that time, international sales departments have had to change completely, she says. Not only in their knowledge of how campaigns run across media and across borders, but they need to be production, events and PR-savvy, too, as branded content has become de rigeur.

"International selling is no longer about big bad deals on the back of a beer-mat," she says. "The whole resource has been tipped on its head, and sales teams are becoming more like old-style full-service agencies - capable of pretty much anything."

On the agency side, ZenithOptimedia's Ben West gets the most votes. A Campaign Face to Watch last year, the 28-year-old has impressed the market with his thorough, gentlemanly approach. A well-organised, driven individual, he has worked on two of the most creative international media accounts: first HSBC, now HP.

"A lot of people make their mark by how much they say," Kevin Razvi, CNN's vice-president of international advertising sales, says. "But, with Ben, everything is so considered and well thought through that you know to listen very closely to what's on his mind."

Interestingly, none of MindShare's international team makes our table of planner-buyers. As regards individuals, MediaCom seems best equipped, with Riddell, Wayne Philbert and Adrian Smith all in the top ten.

Every table in our survey was fairly closely contested, except for one.

The Economist stands head and shoulders above its rivals in the league of top international business print brands, even towering above the Financial Times.

"The difference between your head and your heart doesn't apply with The Economist," Riddell says. "Our research shows how much better an editorial product it is than anything else. It is a fascinating editorial institution that has found the right tone of voice to navigate its way through a very complicated world."

Some suggest that the 162-year-old weekly could be better organised, and that "old school tie" barriers - held firm by a management team who seem to have been there since launch - prevent The Economist from becoming more commercially open. But, with an enviable balance sheet and editorial reputation, it has no imperative to change. As Jason Hayford, Starcom's international investment manager, muses: "A lack of flexibility often equals market strength."

The same can't quite be said of the FT, as it struggles with falling circulation and the financial woes of its parent, Pearson. Yet its editorial strength is unscathed. Readers leaving the paper are, for the most part, returning online to FT.com - the clear leader in our top websites table.

Frances O'Neill, the managing director of Mediaedge:cia's worldwide client management team, says: "The industry may see the problems that the FT is going through. But the average business person doesn't care, and is as loyal to the FT as ever."

So who are the sector's pioneers? Our table is odd in that figures known mainly to the cosy community of international media rub shoulders with mega-powerful media moguls.

Rupert Murdoch, with $55 billion of media assets worldwide and who reinvented the UK TV market when he launched Sky, is an obvious choice.

As is Sir Martin Sorrell, whose mission to offer clients the Holy Grail of an integrated marketing machine at WPP is encouraging large advertisers to appoint international agency networks, such as MindShare, JWT and Grey.

Chris Ingram is a likely candidate too, who'll no doubt be pleased to be perched above his old chum Sorrell. Long before his Tempus Group was swallowed up by WPP, Ingram set up one of the first international departments at CIA Media Networks.

But Mike Jarvis, the international media director at the IT specialist Banner Corporation? While Jarvis may not have launched Sky or bought JWT, his booming voice, six-foot-four frame and larger-than-life character have been influential in raising international media's profile.

Jarvis co-founded one of the world's first international media buying agencies, MJP, which later became Carat International. He also spent a stint at Gateway Computers as the European, then worldwide marketing director.

A stalwart at the International Advertising Association of 25 years, Jarvis set up its German chapter this year. A tougher task, however, has been his role as the IAA's vice-president of young professionals, charged with injecting the body with some much-needed young blood.

Youthful exuberance is abundant in the table's number-two pioneer, Charlie Crowe. Crowe became Emap's youngest-ever editor of a business magazine when he took the reins of Media & Marketing Europe at the age of 24. He went on to launch his own company, CSquared, and now consults, publishes and runs conferences for the sector he reported on for seven years. He recently launched Cream, a magazine devoted to international creative media.

"International budgets haven't grown as much as people expected they would ten years ago," Crowe reflects. "It's also the case that if you're an international media company with just one media channel, you're in trouble.

"But there's lots to be positive about. We're seeing a lot more co-operation between media brands. There's more professionalism in how media is sold. And, sales bluster aside, media owners' revenue targets are being met."

CAMPAIGNS RANK BRAND CAMPAIGN MEDIA AGENCY PEER POLL VOTES 1 Shell Questions for the future MediaCom 22 2 HSBC The world's local bank MindShare 18 3 IBM The other IBM MindShare 16 4 UBS You & us Starcom 14 5 BT Global Services More power to you Starcom 13 6 HP Adapting to change ZenithOptimedia 10 7= Accenture Go on, be a tiger Mediaedge:cia 8 7= Philips Sense and simplicity Carat International 8 9 Cisco Systems This is the power of the network. Now MindShare 7 10 Toyota Zero emissions Carat International 6 PIONEERS RANK NAME/POSITION WHY ARE THEY A PIONEER? PEER POLL VOTES 1 MIKE JARVIS International media Founded one of the world's director, first international media Banner Corporation agencies 21 2 CHARLIE CROWE Director, CSquared Consultant to the international media sector; was Emap's youngest business editor 20 3= TED TURNER Chairman, Turner Invented the rolling news Enterprises Inc format when he launched CNN in 1980 18 3= CHRIS INGRAM Partner, Ingram Launched one of the first international departments at CIA Media Networks 18 5 SIR MARTIN SORRELL Group chief Made the City take advertising executive, WPP seriously as an international industry 16 6 ADRIAN SMITH Associate director, Leads the campaign to rebuild MediaCom Shell's battered image; breaking ground in how media owners can work together 15 7 RUPERT MURDOCH Chairman and chief The Australian media mogul has executive, News built a $55 billion Corporation global empire 13 8 DAVID HANGER Former publisher, Joined The Economist in 1968 and The Economist saw its circulation hit one million when he retired this year 12 9 JOHN PERRISS Former worldwide chief Launched Zenith Media in 1988 executive, and triggered media unbundling ZenithOptimedia from full-service agencies 10 10 PETER STRINGHAM Group general manager, The consistency and discipline marketing, HSBC of "The world's local bank" is global advertising at its best 8 WEBSITES RANK WEBSITE PEER POLL VOTES 1 FT.com 34 2 BBC.co.uk/news 20 3 Reuters.com 14 4 WSJ.com 13 5 Economist.com 12 6 Factiva.com 10 7 Forbes.com 8 8 WARC.com 7 9 AdAge.com 6 10 CNN.com 4 MEDIA PLANNER-BUYERS RANK NAME AGENCY PEER POLL VOTES 1 Ben West ZenithOptimedia 20 2= Adrian Smith MediaCom 18 2= Wayne Philbert MediaCom 18 4 Georgina Hickey Carat International 17 5 Eamon Store Mediaedge:cia 14 6 Tom Denford Mediaedge:cia 13 7= Patrick Ryan Media Planning Group 12 7= Simon Francis OMD 12 9 Jason Hayford Starcom 10 10 Fraser Riddell MediaCom 8 SALESPEOPLE RANK NAME MEDIA OWNER PEER POLL VOTES 1 Liz Jones CNBC Europe 22 2 Paul Maraviglia BusinessWeek 18 3 Carolyn Gibson BBC World 17 4 Jonathan Davies CNN 15 5 Alan Fagan CNN 14 6 Nathalie Bobrinsky BBC World 13 7 Kevin Razvi CNN 12 8= Andy Bush Fortune 11 8= Nadine Howarth Time 11 10 Ken Melville International Herald Tribune 8 MEDIA AGENCIES RANK MEDIA AGENCY PEER POLL VOTES 1 MindShare 26 2 MediaCom 19 3 Starcom 14 4 ZenithOptimedia 13 5 Mediaedge:cia 12 6= Carat 11 6= OMD 11 8 Banner Corporation 6 9 Just Media 3 10 i-level 2 PUBLICATIONS RANK PUBLICATION PEER POLL VOTES 1 The Economist 50 2 Financial Times 28 3 BusinessWeek 20 4= Time 10 4= Wall Street Journal Europe 10 6 Fortune 7 7 Newsweek 5 8 International Herald Tribune 4 9 European Voice 3 10 Management Today 2 TV CHANNELS RANK CHANNEL PEER POLL VOTES 1 BBC World 42 2 CNN 34 3 CNBC Europe 16 4 Sky 9 5 Bloomberg 8

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