PERSPECTIVE: Agencies fail to get to grips with digital TV age at their peril

So, having just repaired damaged relationships after the Top 300 School Reports, this week we launch the CampaignLive Fantasy Agency League (see Diary), rate all the industry’s senior players by salary, and lose virtually every friend we ever had. Fun. It’s a dangerous concept.

So, having just repaired damaged relationships after the Top 300

School Reports, this week we launch the CampaignLive Fantasy Agency

League (see Diary), rate all the industry’s senior players by salary,

and lose virtually every friend we ever had. Fun. It’s a dangerous

concept.



Part of that fun is forcing all of you ’owners’ to pick someone from

every discipline and lump them together under one roof in an entirely

integrated agency - the stuff of so much industry hot air. It inevitably

means re-uniting agencies and media specialists. Here, the irony that

lies behind such a playful idea becomes painful.



Other than the fact that media has reverted to its overwhelmingly male,

neanderthal origins, the one thing I took away from the Barcelona TV

event last week was how far the genuine revolution ushered in by the

advent of digital TV is from most creative agencies’ thinking. It was

evidenced most clearly by the alarming absence of anyone at all from a

creative agency other than the speakers, David Warden of McCann-Erickson

and the absent-with-sick-note Peter Mead (best wishes for a speedy

recovery).



Whether they were sales pitches or not, presentations from the likes of

Microsoft’s Web TV and Cable & Wireless brought home just how different

TV will be, and the realisation that the armchair football fan’s dream -

being able to choose camera angles yourself and direct Premier League

games through your own remote control handsets - is almost upon us. Not

in the distant future, but in the autumn when the technology becomes

available to consumers.



Viewers will also be able to bet on the outcome of a free-kick on the

edge of the box, and call up Emmanuel Petit’s history of red card

incidents as he trudges towards yet another early bath. That’s autumn

1999.



As ever, the real insights at events such as Barcelona come via frank,

late-night bar talk, with the few clients that were present. ’Why do my

commercials have to cost pounds 1 million?’; ’My agency never talks to

me about any of this stuff’; and several references to the words

attributed to a nameless senior creative director that were quoted in a

platform speech: ’I was hoping to retire before all this became

real.’



Well, it has become real. There may not yet be big money in it. The

number of viewers may yet be less than those tuning in to see topless

darts and the weather in Norwegian. Clients may not yet have gone

outside their traditional agency rosters. But this may change very

quickly.



Make no mistake, clients are increasingly going direct to media owners -

even media agencies are threatened. Many creative agencies are nowhere

on these subjects. Too many people in the creative sphere really do wish

it would all go away. But it won’t. Lord knows, it’s difficult getting

to grips with digital. Commercially, it will become a matter of life and

death.



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