Media: Double Standards - 'We're here to offer brave clients something new'

Mark Jarvis and Guy Sellers explain that while media networks dominate in terms of size and scale, independents can provide a service unmatched by their larger rivals.

MARK JARVIS - PARTNER, THE7STARS

- How true is it that the media market is now dominated by scale and the media agencies owned by the major holding companies?

Anyone with a calculator can answer this one - domination of the big networks is a fact. We're not here for domination, though. We're here to offer creative, brave clients something new and different. And while the big networks continue to consolidate, there is evidence that a lot of clients are looking for different models - notably the increasing business moving to ourselves and to MCHI: the two newest, and most original, media agencies in London.

- What advantages does an independent agency have to offer its clients?

Honesty, impartiality, service.

- Is it inevitable that all independent media agencies eventually sell out (literally rather than morally)?

I think there is room in the market for both independent agencies and big networks - the more choice for clients, the better. The important thing is that agencies differentiate themselves, which is always easier for creative agencies to achieve than it is for media agencies. The most successful media agencies are always 100 per cent clear exactly what they stand for, regardless of ownership.

- Describe your own approach to media and your clients' business.

Our clients get a hands-on service with senior, experienced people working on their business. They also get fantastic media value, especially in the current market, where our trading approach outperforms the big networks every time.

- How do you compete with the levels of investment that larger agencies can put into resources such as technology and people?

The irony is that, right now, the big agencies are under considerably more financial pressure than we are. We can attract the best people - we have no pay freezes, no recruitment freeze and we offer people a more rounded career. We can also invest in research and technology without shareholder pressure. Our overheads are lower - we have no head office to fund. We are not a cash cow for other, less profitable businesses within a group and we don't see the UK as a profit-generator to pay for overseas acquisitions.

- What are clients looking for from you in light of the downturn?

New ways of trading, cheaper media and intelligent thinking. This is particularly true in the digital space, where clients are even more receptive to new approaches and ideas. Plus, they keep expecting me to pay for the beers, and that doesn't come naturally for someone with my legendarily tight purse strings.

- What advice would you give to young people wanting to work in media?

Get involved. The industry is great fun, hard work and truly challenging. It also relies on young people to keep it fresh and exciting. My advice would be simple - make sure your workplace inspires you and your boss respects your input. Two sugars and not too much milk for me, thank you.

GUY SELLERS - MANAGING DIRECTOR, TOTAL MEDIA

- How true is it that the media market is now dominated by scale and the media agencies owned by the major holding companies?

The networks dominate in terms of volume spend and number of front doors, but there is absolutely no monopoly on good thinking, service and added value. While the scale of the networks suits the needs of the very largest multinational clients, I believe there are an increasing number of clients who are looking for a more bespoke service.

- What advantages does an independent agency have to offer its clients?

Flexibility and value. Independents do not operate agency deals, and so our clients are not tied into arrangements with media owners that don't suit them. Medium-sized clients can expect to receive a more senior level of attention at independents and this should be reflected in their business performance. This combination of experience and freedom to plan offers huge added value to the clients of independent agencies.

- Is it inevitable that all independent media agencies eventually sell out (literally rather than morally)?

Not at all and I think this is something of a misperception. Agencies selling tend to make headlines whereas MBOs go largely unnoticed. There are lots of independents I know that are planning to pass on the baton to the next tier of management and for most of us in the independent sector, this is a matter of agency culture, rather than money.

- Describe your own approach to media and your clients' business.

Our approach is fundamentally about adding value to clients' business. To do this, we look for a proper understanding of what they do and how they do it to establish where and how we can make the difference. This means working closely with clients and so our style is very engaged. The business trend, certainly at Total Media, is for clients to look for increasing levels of control over media investment outcomes. As a result, direct response, online and data skills have moved towards the centre of the agency.

- How do you compete with the levels of investment that larger agencies can put into resources such as technology and people?

Our team has to be able to compete and so we do make the investment on the research and technology you would expect, and also some you wouldn't. Investment in our people is a priority because of all the benefits it derives to the company. Proper training helps us attract and retain talent and I think gives our clients a bigger bang for their media buck.

- What are clients looking for from you in light of the downturn?

Clients seek added value at any time but perhaps more so now than ever. It has to be delivered at every level of our offer. We recently carried out some research on marketers' needs from agencies that confirmed business understanding and added value at the top of their wishlists.

- What advice would you give to young people wanting to work in media?

It used to be the case that you needed the hide of a rhino and the liver of a whale to get on but that has largely changed. If you like variety, challenge and being routinely forced to think hard, then this is a great place to be. The hours can be tough but if you hang in, the rewards will come.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).