The mystery of why media agencies are shy ofeffectiveness

Never let it be said this column is reluctant to deal with the great mysteries of life. How exactly does Sir Paul McCartney get his hair that colour? And was that the cause or the result of his war with Heather Mills?

Here's one mystery I will have a stab at answering, but would also put to the audience: why are media agencies so reluctant to enter the IPA Effectiveness Awards?

I was not the only industry judge (no bribes please, the judging is long over) saying this. For the record, just two of the 64 entries came from media agencies, plus one that was co-authored. It's about the same level as 2004, when prizes were picked up by OMD Metrics, Manning Gottlieb (members of the DDB Group again being an honourable exception this year) and Naked although, we should note, the Best Media prize went to Bartle Bogle Hegarty for its Lynx Pulse campaign.

The quick answer could be that the awards are, historically, considered the province of creative agencies, but why that should still be the case now I don't know. After all, media agencies today claim, with some justification, the right to sit at the clients' top-table and take a lead role in the conception and implementation of any campaign. If so, then that privilege should also confer responsibilities, among which surely must be for the overall effectiveness of any piece of communication.

In a significant number of the case studies I read, the role of media was no less important than anything else. Indeed, where budgets are tight (and that isn't a trend that will reverse itself) it is even more central. Yet, with very few exceptions, media agencies seem either unwilling, or unable, to play this part.

Let's look at the question of ability first. I would argue that, having invested in recent years in boffins who specialise in measurement and econometrics, two cornerstones of any decent effectiveness case, that this is an area that they are culturally attuned to. Surely then, they should be at least as able, if not more so, than creative agencies to make the case for effectiveness.

So unless these are in fact smoke-and-mirror investments, we should ask ourselves whether it is a question of will. I think it is. Whether it has more to do with laziness or a reluctance to step up to the plate - based perhaps on a lingering sense of inferiority (curious, at a time when David Pattison is the first media man to hold the IPA's presidency) - is a moot point. Views will differ from agency to agency.

But step up media agencies should, otherwise their new-found position at the top table will be in jeopardy, and quite possibly eclipsed by the new-media agencies which, I suspect, will not be quite so backward in coming forward.

- Ian Darby is away.

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