Media Perspective: Disappearance of Billetts name marks a sad day for media
A view from Jeremy Lee

Media Perspective: Disappearance of Billetts name marks a sad day for media

In more ways than it probably realises, the media industry is lucky that people like John Billett have never really gone away; whether it likes it or not, he can still be found gazing half-skywards, jowls aquiver, pontificating on pretty much any subject and on any platform that will have him.

Equally, the fact that even elderly millionaires like him find it difficult to disengage with the machinations and minutiae of the media industry is testament to what a compellingly dynamic and interesting industry it can be. So I'll admit to a pang of nostalgia when I heard that the Billetts brand name is being dispensed with in favour of that of its parent company, Ebiquity.

Billetts was bought by the media monitoring company Thomson Intermedia, which later adopted the Ebiquity name, in 2005 but, such was the power of the Billetts name, it remained a standalone brand even after Billett left in 2007. Much of the power of this brand was built around the cult of its pompous (and occasionally infuriating) but ultimately loveable founder.

And now it is disappearing in favour of a rather dull and clunky corporate neologism that may well better reflect the integrated data-driven insights that Ebiquity offers, but it all still seems like the end of an era. Legend has it that new starters at the media agency CIA Billett (there's a recurring theme, you'll notice, in the names of where he has worked) were greeted by the great man with an outstretched hand and the mantra delivered in his distinctive loud and ponderous way: "Billett's the name; media's the game."

While it was easy to snigger behind his back, few people managed to play their hand as well as Billett, whose business was built on his audacity, chutzpah, showmanship and sweat. He also added some colour to an aspect of the industry - media monitoring - where it was sorely lacking and, thank God, continues to do so albeit it in a more limited fashion.

In typical modest fashion, Billett's own personal website describes him as having "a track record as a leader; as a creator of business; as an entrepreneur ... delivering successful in demand business operations ... and added value for shareholders". He's right - as the largest individual shareholder in Billetts (with a 75 per cent stake when it sold), the deal netted him up to £10 million, so the motivation was high.

It also usefully includes a section on "John's Desert Island Discs" (treats include Treasures Of English Church Music and Rachmaninoff's Vespers (Mass For Unaccompanied Choirs)). You won't find stuff like that on Ebiquity's website.

While Billett continues to keep his hand in for the time being and, on a practical level, the disappearance of the Billetts brand name is likely to make very little difference to Ebiquity's business, I feel that a tiny bit of media's heritage is in danger of being erased when it should be cherished.