Media Perspective: It's a little early to be reading last rites to our media agencies

When Ian Darby and I recently spent a lively lunch debating those two eternal questions - "why are England so rubbish at football?" and "what is the future for media agencies?" - it struck me how similar those two debates have become.

The common view of England's inability to win a major tournament appears to be that a combination of too many foreigners in the Premier League and an unwillingness to move away from a 4-4-2 formation means we are doomed to failure.

International football has developed and we just haven't kept up. Simple!

As media agencies, we stand accused of something similar. Unwilling to adapt to a media market that has changed more in the past five years than in the previous 30, we are apparently staring into the abyss due mainly to our own stupidity and an over-reliance on an outdated business model.

So when I was asked to write Ian's Media Perspective column, I thought to myself yes, that's what we need, a bit of perspective. So, having spent the past 11 years working in a media agency, here is an alternative point of view.

As the pace of change in the media market accelerates and we exit recession, media agencies are actually in pretty good shape.

We have made significant progress in equipping ourselves to play a leading role in the new media landscape. Witness the increasing amount of digital media moving back into the network agencies over the past 18 months and our increasingly diversified revenue streams.

It's true that, for years, we have failed to embrace technology properly, but the evolution of Demand Side Trading Platforms and Ad Exchanges is set to revolutionise how media is planned and bought. Media agencies are well placed to lead in this area and, as a result, will deliver better value for clients and drive much-needed efficiencies in our own businesses.

Despite widely inaccurate reporting to the contrary, we are not all over-traded and under-paid. It's true that clients are demanding more value, more accountability and greater transparency but, in the main, they want to work in partnership with their media agencies to deliver it. For sure this will challenge the traditional commercial models that have served us well, but experimenting with different models of risk and reward is hardly a reason to read us our last rites.

Yes, the media landscape has changed forever, but in my view there is every reason to believe that media agencies have a bright future in it.

We need to remind ourselves of the incredible progress we have made in a period of unprecedented change, introduce a bit of balance to our debate and save the ranting for the football.

- Ian Darby is away

- Robert Horler is the chief operating officer at Aegis Media UK

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