Media Perspective: Have chief strategic officers now burned themselves out?

While the advertising agency world is asking just what it is that a creative director can do for WPP, the same question is often asked about the chief strategy officer role at media networks. Aside from the obvious answer ("fly around on planes a lot"), many are stumped for an answer.

And it seems the mystery, travel opportunities and cultural variety on offer in such a role are not for everyone. For those who missed it, Matt Andrews, the outgoing managing director of Vizeum, said in Campaign of his move to the ad agency Mother: "If I had stayed in media, my next job would have been a global strategy officer and I'd have ended up committing suicide in an airport toilet."

Yet the majority of the big media networks tend to have a chief strategy officer and it is seemingly a valuable role when the focus is internal: building new structures, planning approaches and products for clients (all the time then). For instance, MindShare/Group M's Nick Emery was instrumental in developing MindShare's recent global restructure before, no doubt, returning to the skies to make sure it is applied in markets around the world - itself a neverending task.

But what of the clients? Do they see much benefit from this type of guru floating around at the top of a network's business? Not in the case of the networks, which view the role as internal facing. On the other hand, Aegis Media has just promoted Malcolm Hunter to the global role of chief client strategy officer and is obviously hoping that he doesn't get too bogged down in internal issues and structures to prevent him spending time on solving the business problems of clients.

Aegis is working steadily towards having a global client structure that competes with some of its rivals, having previously operated in a leaner way at a global level, and good luck to it. But on the whole, it's hard to make a correlation between networks creating strong, effective work for clients and there being a global chief strategy officer at the network. OMD Worldwide, for instance, seems to get by without one on its board but has strategy chiefs on regional levels and it has been heralded consistently as the most "creative" of the media networks.

To other media networks, though, it's important to have such a figurehead and enables their own process to come to life for clients. What they may find is fewer of the UK's top planning operators willing to take on such a role.

Anecdotally, they seem to be departing in greater numbers for the lure of advertising agencies, media owners or something new entirely, rather than opting for the strange mixture of global variety, but undoubted corporate "sameness" of a global role.

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