Opinion: Perspective - Media-creative nirvana benefits from early start

What do in-house media people bring to an agency? Assorted companies from Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy and Soul at the smaller end of the scale to Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and TBWA at the other have hired media experts. Grey nearly did it and BBH continues its search for the perfect media person to join its ranks.

It's certainly a more meaningful progression from the 90s crazes where agencies went to extraordinary lengths to make their offices conducive to better work - Let's have a cappuccino bar! Let's make all the walls curly! Let's take everyone out of their offices and make them work open plan! - and still everyone had their best ideas away from the office. When it comes to media people in agencies, as our feature (p22) reveals, their contribution looks rather more meaningful.

I'd have thought a legitimate use of their time would be to steep themselves in media by reading Heat, surfing the net and watching This Morning, Home and Away and Richard and Judy. Instead, it's work, work work.

Actual examples of where in-house media made a difference are pretty thin on the ground. But that probably has much to do with not wishing to give away any competitive advantage in a business where ideas can be copied in a nanosecond.

The fact that all four writers offered slightly different solutions to the "how to work better with creative agencies" question means that there are many ways to skin a cat. And in every case it's easy to pick off some of the individual's comments and say there's little in their wisdom that you wouldn't find in any media person with 12 months experience. "We're looking at ways of generating more cut-through and stand-out in the media executions we employ," one says.

None of them alludes to the insidious role clients have played in keeping media and creative camps apart. Many clients will pay lip service to the notion of creatives and media working together but they'll rarely pay cash. Worse, they'll sometimes set creative agencies against media companies to beat them down on fees, production costs, time lengths, space sizes and anything else they can save money on.

One sensible point emerges, and PHD's Mark Holden, currently ensconced at AMV two days a week, expresses it well. He has a meeting with a creative team that is working on a new brief. "I am coming in at the optimum moment - the point after the core creative idea has been established but before any executions of the idea have been worked up."

It sounds very simple and it is. Agencies must stop fussing about the theory of media and creative people rubbing along together or not. Instead, what makes sense is to concentrate early and together on solving particular problems. There is nothing mysterious about the process. It does not matter where it takes place. And it doesn't involve curly walls or cappuccino bars.

A quick digression. Last week Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares became notorious overnight for its swearcount. A total of 73 f***s, 16 sh**s, seven t***s and one b****** broke the terrestrial swear record, set by a showing of Goodfellas. Last week too I let slip the word "sucker" in this column. I was writing about John Sunderland, the chairman of Cadbury-Schweppes and ISBA's president who kindly agreed to address the IPA AGM. Seriously offensive, said many of the great and good via my e-mail inbox and in Letters (opposite). I was joking, however, and apologise for any offence caused.

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