Media: A Moment with Marquis

Where are the new chief executives? This question, debated in last week's Campaign, is a thorny one. In a talent-based industry, a shortfall in senior managerial talent is, you might say, not particularly clever.

Several plausible solutions were mooted by the expert panel in the article: incentivise network agency chiefs with equity; create a culture of entrepreneurialism; be braver about hiring outside talent. None of them suggested recruiting media agency managers into creative agencies. I wonder why.

Media provides, arguably, a better business and commercial grounding than the account management route to the top. Media agencies are generally well-run enterprises, capably managing bottom lines, people and clients.

On top of that, most creative agencies are nowadays desperate to install a media presence at their hearts and have tried different solutions with varying degrees of success. Why not kill two birds with one stone and hire a media-trained chief executive?

I am not aware that the shortage of top managerial talent exists in media agencies. Were they not affected by the early 90s recession just the same?

There seem to be plenty of talented senior managers in their thirties ripe for promotion to managing director and CEO.

It's not as if media people have not made this migration before. Tim Bell, Andrew Robertson and Rick Bendell all started in media. Dominic Proctor, Mark Cranmer and, yes, even I had spells as creative agency bosses - only the latter lacking the talent of the former two.

So what, if any, are the objections? There is, particularly now that so few senior people in media ever went through the full-service agency experience, a genuine concern that they aren't familiar enough with creative people or the creative product to hack it.

Indeed, it worries me that so many really good media people have had so little exposure to the creative side of our business. (I know it's cool to say media people are creative too, but you know what I mean.) However, this isn't true of them all. There are some extraordinarily bright media-trained bosses whose judgment of creative ideas may well be better than some of their creative agency counterparts.

The answer then? Be brave and look to the media sector. But select well - not everyone is up to the mark. Either that, or have a bit more faith in the new generation of suits. Because they'll be pretty good, whether you think so now or not.

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