OPINION: Agencies face a fight to control media planning

Why do we all get so excited about who does or doesn’t do media planning? In the last week alone, there have been big stories in Campaign and elsewhere concerning Unilever and Heinz. In the case of Ammirati Puris Lintas and Initiative, an all-out head-to-head struggle seems to be taking place, particularly since Martin Puris spoke in favour of media planning staying within the creative agency and hired Paul Woolmington to make his point.

Why do we all get so excited about who does or doesn’t do media

planning? In the last week alone, there have been big stories in

Campaign and elsewhere concerning Unilever and Heinz. In the case of

Ammirati Puris Lintas and Initiative, an all-out head-to-head struggle

seems to be taking place, particularly since Martin Puris spoke in

favour of media planning staying within the creative agency and hired

Paul Woolmington to make his point.



This news was preceded by Martin Sorrell’s statement on the future of

WPP media, which intimated that media planning would stay with his

creative agencies, and was followed by the Abbott Mead Vickers move on

Pattison Horswell Durden. There is scarcely an agency chief in town who

is not wrestling with the problem at present.



One reason lies in a piece of research: Universum, the Swedish Research

Institute’s annual European Graduate Survey, which identified the

companies that European students would like to join upon graduation. The

list, topped by McKinsey, the Boston Consulting Group, and Andersen

Consulting, included Procter and Gamble, Nestle and Unilever, and was

stuffed full of hi-tech companies. No ad agencies were in sight.



Compared with consultancies, agencies are seen to be well down the food

chain of influence, despite reasonable salaries. This is a view from the

outside, which those on the inside know to be true. Furthermore, with

clients now viewed as developing closer relationships with their media

advisors - who are after all the guardians of their purse strings, the

physical location of the media planner takes on a still greater

significance.



As agencies try to reclaim the higher ground by positioning themselves

as the guardian of the idea, it becomes obvious how much more difficult

this becomes if the message comes down the line - er, it’s a 30 and a

ten with some dps’s. Expect to see more and more creative agencies hire

their own heavyweight media planners.



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