Media Perspective: Building strong links with media owners is one way forward

Chris Ingram is clearly not a man who overeats.

But the fitness fanatic admits that he offered advertisers too rich a menu with his Ingram consultancy, which closed its doors last week. He says its intention to offer upstream strategy to senior clients just couldn't be scaled: "It's been like running a three-star Michelin restaurant with only 30 covers," he opined. "If you only see 30 people, you can't make money."

Ingram is continuing with a suitably less grandiose offer, not quite your local Harvester, but certainly less ambitious than Gordon Ramsay's flagship operation. Meanwhile, Ingram's colleagues Leslie Butterfield and Andy Tilley have moved on to pastures new by relaunching their own ventures, which will rely upon their own contacts and willingness to chase project work.

The editor of this magazine pointed out back in July that maybe there was little call for Ingram's offering in a media market that is generally swimming downstream with, if anything, an increased emphasis on implementation rather than strategy.

Undoubtedly, this has been the case, with the major media networks playing an increasingly competitive game, where they are paid less and less for doing more and more. They remain, however, profitable businesses with effective systems for achieving the necessary buying efficiencies.

Privately, some media agency bosses admit that this can't go on forever, that they are destroying their own heritage. But then, how often will an incumbent or desperate bidding agency drop its pants to land that big bit of business?

The problem seems to be one of caution as well as of demand: why risk diverting too much of your agency focus to the "clever stuff" when this could mean taking your eyes off the TV deal and losing the hygiene factor you have in common with every other buying agency?

Yet most big agencies are now at least talking the talk of putting consumer behaviour ahead of media channel selection in the planning process. Whether this will fundamentally change things is doubtful, but it's at least a move in the right direction. The other positive force for change is that media agencies are now able to recognise the need to be able to develop or commission content outside of broadcast or even online advertising. Increasing amounts of revenue are coming from diversified activity, but ad agencies can't, or are unable to, do it. So step forward the media specialist.

To make this happen, one thing is essential: engagement with, and a detailed knowledge of, media owners. This relationship and understanding is the most valuable expertise that media agencies have going forward. For this reason, those that don't implement or execute in some shape or form will never again be flavour of the month.

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