Opinion: Perspective - It's all change for the industry and for Campaign

In the week I started here as editor, the AOL/Time Warner merger hit the headlines. Media share prices went skyward as the industry braced itself for a revolution in the delivery of news, information and entertainment into homes around the world. Did it make the impact we breathlessly promised in January 2000? Of course not. Before long our talk was of merger malaise.

But the industry has undoutedly been transformed in other ways since 2000. The share of advertising which concentrates on traditional media has declined as techniques in below-the-line areas have gained share.

Network TV pricing has risen faster than inflation, prompting major advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and McDonald's to throw down repeated challenges to their agencies.

Throw into this maelstrom the fact that clients, more pressured than ever, have never been more focused on cost and you have a volatile and depressing landscape for the mainstream ad agency. The emphasis on procurement has enforced the feeling that you can buy creativity in a mechanical way.

Few who understand advertising would agree.

And yet, and yet, despite these dramas, the opportunities for growth within agencies of all types are clearly still there. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Campaign's reigning Agency of the Year, enjoys a seemingly unstoppable momentum, with Unilever and other clients delivering repeated votes of confidence in what has become a strong global advertising brand.

Another growth opportunity has come from what was once the most maligned area - the holding company pitch. Only a year ago, the focus within the holding companies of structuring their talent into teams to manage every aspect of multinational accounts seemed like a fad. Since then, two major global clients, HSBC and Samsung (both with their origins in Asia), have encouraged pitching agencies to do just that. HSBC went to WPP. Samsung's decision is expected in two weeks.

The result of all this is a UK ad industry that is more professional and better-run than ever before, but horribly lacking in self-confidence.

To strike a happier note, then, this week more than 78,000 commercials and print ads were viewed on the US website AdForum.com.

What is startling about the top-five list of ads viewed is that three out of the five are from the UK. We've been led to believe that the hard graft of managing agencies over the past few years has knocked the specialness out of the business here. The bloom's supposed to have come off the creative agencies and transferred itself to media, hasn't it? Apparently not, if 78,000 people want to go to a website to ogle at mostly British ads, with in number-one place Clemmow Hornby Inge's Cannes award-winning "cockerel" for Typhoo.

Finally, any complaints about this week's issue? Call Claire Beale, the new editor of Campaign, or Francesca Newland, the new deputy editor. Me? Having worked myself out of a job by employing people far more capable than myself, I will be testing the theory that strong media brands can be extended into other areas. My thanks to the extraordinarily talented editorial team here for making my years in the hot-seat so enjoyable. Upon succeeding Stefano Hatfield, I remember doing a cut-and- paste job with Jerry della Femina's quote: "If advertising is the most fun you can have while keeping your clothes on, then editing Campaign has to come a close second." You know what? Despite the recession, with all its attendant job losses and budget cuts, I was right.


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