Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee: Why Aegis, and the industry, still need people like Platt

Steve Platt is a big man, a hard man, even a slightly scary man. Having been brought up above a pub in post-war Bermondsey, he probably always had to be.

With his rather blunt, forthright approach and opinions, combined with a powerful grasp of the Anglo-Saxon lexicon within the English language, he is as likely to instil an element of fear as he is respect in those who deal with him.

Despite - or maybe because - of this, Platt still has many fans in the media sales world. However, Dawn Airey, the former chief executive of Channel 5, isn't one of them. To this day, she apparently holds Platt solely responsible for RTL's decision to offload the loss-making channel - because he had pulled Aegis clients' spend from it.

For what it's worth, I am one of Platt's fans. In short, I think he is a brilliant - and unsentimental - negotiator with an unmatched eye for a deal. He is also the only person to have won both Campaign's sales director of the year award, when he was at Carlton TV, and buyer of the year (twice) during his time at Aegis. Nearly everyone respects him for it (and the rest are probably too chicken shit to say a bad word about him).

So it would have been a shame, if not an act of outright neglect, if Platt became yet another victim of the shift away from the proven art of negotiation and focus on buying at the right price towards the as-yet-undefined and difficult-to-quantify, let alone commercialise, fashion for developing media "partnerships".

Given the changes in the media owner side of the equation to embrace this softer world of collaboration rather than confrontation (in reality, perhaps just a realisation that alternative revenue streams are required), it seemed inevitable that agencies would soon follow suit. While I'm all in favour of elevating media beyond the commodity it has become, at the moment at least, anything to do with partnerships just looks like tweaking around the edges, providing some useful, interesting, but ultimately small-scale, incremental cash.

Platt's replacement as the head of trading at Aegis Media UK, Azon Howie, is a good man and a talented, thoughtful trader (see next week's Headliner), but it is surely reassuring to the agency's clients that Platt is being retained on an as-yet-unspecified consultancy basis.

While the figureheads at many media owners may have changed, the need for them to also have experienced negotiators to guide them through the deals is essential. Whether the advertising industry likes it or not, the issue of price isn't going away any time soon, and those who think otherwise do so at their peril. That is why there is still a place for the likes of Steve Platt.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

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