Media: Double Standards - In support of creativity and old-fashioned graft

Two big media planning brains on how to develop ideas in this age of procurement and the reasons why neuro-planning could shape future media thinking.

JONATHAN DURDEN - PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER, PHD

- What's the best piece of work your company has produced this year?

The conception and creation of neuro-planning as a world-first pioneering research study into how media affects which parts of the brain.

- How much of a buzz do you still get working at a media agency?

For as long as I can turn up and work with Tess, Morag, Mark, Lou and, of course, David, it is a huge buzz.

- How true is it that there is less room for creative ideas at media agencies as their offerings arguably become more commoditised?

It is true that it gets harder as the procurement professionals sink their teeth into our business. By the time you have filled in the tender documents, most companies have lost the will to live, let alone be creative. And not all media companies want to compete creatively anyway, further eroding clients' expectations. I think it is worth fighting for.

- Describe the culture at your agency.

Uniquely for a testosterone-dominated industry, PHD has the female values of emotion, loyalty and curiosity. The agency is the black sheep of the family, a self-help society with a sense of humour.

- How much do you enjoy sharing and developing ideas with ad agencies?

I like to have all the ideas and to not share them with anyone, not even my children.

- How true is it that independent, planning-only agencies can generate more effective solutions than planners linked to buying operations?

The best talent has the best ideas. If you can attract them and stimulate them, whether buying is close, far away or linked is irrelevant. Anyway, some of PHD's most creative people are its buyers.

- How revolutionary is the emergence of neuro-planning as a media planning tool?

It's the first time a place in media has been filled. Before neuro-planning there was a huge leap of faith between working out what a client needed and how best to answer that need. Now we have something to base those needs on.

- Who did you learn most from professionally early in your career?

John Ayling, whom I credit with teaching me how to add up. Sadly, I have since forgotten.

- How do you react to being described as an "industry veteran"?

It is a privilege. Happily, I am so cool and George Clooney-like it is not an issue (written to the gentle sound of tears hitting the keyboard).

- What's the most exciting development in your industry this year?

Apart from PHD going global, the confirmation that Derek Morris' hair is a wig. Official.

- How did you come to work in media?

I was working as a merchant banker, which I hated. My father had a copy of The Daily Telegraph with a list of TV companies and I thought it would be more interesting to think about TV programmes instead of share certificates.

- How important are awards to your agency?

Awards are very important to PHD. It's important to be competitive. It's a way to show how individuals can make a difference. It's fun and a great night out.

- What do you do in your spare time?

I write novels (yet to be published), screenplays (yet to be commissioned), have racehorses (yet to win), restaurants (yet to make a profit) and exotic cars (yet to impress a single woman).

DEREK MORRIS - VICE-CHAIRMAN, ZENITHOPTIMEDIA

- What's the best piece of work your company has produced this year?

The thinking on Fairy. The execution on Chip & Pin. The buying on B&Q. - How much of a buzz do you still get working at a media agency?

Loads. With all the talk of tough times, it still beats the pants off my mates' jobs!

- How true is it that there is less room for creative ideas at media agencies as their offerings arguably become more commoditised?

It's not true but ideas have to be better than anything before. The key thing is they have to work. They have to sell something. If not, it's a waste of space, literally.

- Describe the culture at your agency.

It does what it says. Without airs or graces. With a good sense of humour. Is non-smoking and seeks same ...

- How much do you enjoy sharing and developing ideas with ad agencies?

With the best agencies and the best people, this is the most fantastic part of the job. It's so much fun you shouldn't be paid. With others, no amount of money can ease the pain.

- How true is it that independent, planning-only agencies can generate more effective solutions than planners linked to buying operations?

It's a complete utter fallacy. Invented by a tiny sector and amplified by lazy journalism. And I'll fight anyone who says different.

- How revolutionary is the emergence of neuro-planning as a media planning tool?

As this is a PHD tool, I am bound to say not very, but if it's a synthesis of Robert Heath Lowe's Awareness Processing and Engagement theory, then it will be very revolutionary.

- Who did you learn most from professionally early in your career?

Tim Cox, the media director at BMP, and every BMP (DDB) account planner I worked with.

- How do you react to being described as an "industry veteran"?

Flattered, I think. But you're as old as your last good idea.

- What's the most exciting development in your industry this year?

The decline of the stunt and the move to the graft it takes to develop big ideas with a strategic heart.

- How did you come to work in media?

I love ads. But the reason I ended up in the media was because I scored a hat-trick for the media team and was recruited. It was a complete fluke and has not been repeated since.

- How important are awards to your agency?

Awards are everything and nothing. I come down on the positive side as they create an opportunity to assess what we've done and champion the best.

- What do you do in your spare time?

Cuddle the three women I live with.

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