Opinion: Perspective - Are media owners becoming the new ideas men?

It is the sign of a good advertising campaign when almost everyone involved in the process claims ownership of the idea. The turkey, of course, is always a bastard.

So across the span of Campaign's awards season, it's not unusual to see the same work entered several times by different agencies (creative, media, DM). On the basis that success has many fathers, such multiple parentage is often a fair bet that these campaigns will enjoy at least one trip to the podium.

Things were no different when media's finest (and the equally fine Steve Henry) sat down to judge the Campaign Media Awards last week. There was much debate about provenance and whether it even mattered whose damn idea it was if it was an envy-inducingly good one.

If anything, such debates illustrate that cliches like holistic communications and 360-degree thinking, and all those other hackneyed phrases that shamefully clutter agency positioning statements, do actually mean something in the real world. And for any client that manages to enjoy such seamless work from a collection of disparate agencies, the origin of the idea is almost the least important thing; its success across relevant communications channels, with all partners working together to drive effectiveness, is a rarely achieved holy grail.

But the emergence of a new breed of squire raised some interesting issues at this year's awards judging. Media owners' growing confidence in cross-media advertising packages, tailored to specific client needs, presents a new dimension in the ownership debate.

Cross-media selling has been the next big thing for an age, and has consistently and resolutely failed to deliver on its promise. The bravura of collaboration - with different media coming together to provide a unique advertising platform across, say, TV, radio and print - all too often disintegrated into a mire of politics and self-interest.

Yet this year has seen the concept take a significant leap forward. Take the launch of the RSVP alliance between Viacom Brand Solutions, IPC Media and Capital Radio. Or the success of Emap in leveraging the collective power of its individual brands. Or the intelligent cross-media solutions demonstrated in some of this year's Media Awards entry papers.

The one-stop shop for complementary media platforms is becoming a potent new force in the market.

The best cross-media packages are flexible and sensitive to a range of different target markets; the worst are disparate properties bundled up for the convenience of the media owner rather than the advertiser's strategy. The benefits for the media owners, of course, are extra revenue - or new revenue that they might otherwise have been unable to make a case for - and the potential to lock-in advertisers with longer-term relationships. The return for the advertiser, naturally, is more cost-effective solutions, matched by a greater synergy across platforms and the opportunity to leverage a more productive commercial relationship across a range of otherwise unrelated media.

The early successes of such cross-media solutions raises an interesting issue for media agencies, though. As more media owners understand how to work together to unlock the potency of their brands for advertisers, it's inevitable that they will also become more adept at planning new solutions for advertisers. The planner-seller - as opposed to the planner-buyer - is already emerging as a new force and potential ally (or business partner) for advertisers. The issue of who owns the idea will only become more heated.

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