PERSPECTIVE: Networks are now starting to realise their global claims

Deep in the bowels of Procter & Gamble's US headquarters, tucked away in some dusty box of once-important papers, there's a clutch of memos from Grey Advertising. They're decades old, but capture a crucial moment in history.

Deep in the bowels of Procter & Gamble's US headquarters, tucked away in some dusty box of once-important papers, there's a clutch of memos from Grey Advertising. They're decades old, but capture a crucial moment in history.

Picture the scene: it is the middle of the last century and one of America's leading ad agencies is in covert talks with one of the country's biggest advertisers about a plot that could blow apart the industries in which they worked. Explosive memos are sent between the two, hatching a fiendish plan: the launch of a TV buying department to place ads on commercial telly.

Now, with 21st century eyes (and European ones, at that) you might think this one was a bit of a no-brainer. TV goes all commercial, your clients can put ads in breaks between the programmes, so you need a team of people to do the job, negotiate the deals and get the ads on air. Simple. Oh, but the consultations that went on (as highlighted by the Grey memos) - the nail-chewing and head-scratching. Doing the bleeding obvious was not easy.

So perhaps it's not surprising that the global media networks have taken so long to open their most important office: a US flagship. In the great tradition of slow development that has characterised the US media industry, America has been the last major flag on the map for many of the networks. Omnicom's OMD and WPP's MindShare are both only a matter of months old there, and both have trodden delicate political paths. Forget nail-chewing and head-scratching. This advance in media has caused the Americans real blood, sweat and tears angst.

But now that all of the major media networks have their US offices up and running (to varying degrees of independence from the main agency) Campaign is launching a new series of profiles: the Media Barons, which takes a closer look at the media networks and the people running them. Irwin Gotlieb, the head of WPP's MindShare, kicks off the run.

What's been really fascinating about compiling the first clutch of features is the value placed on the media networks by their parent company. At WPP, the chief executive, Martin Sorrell, may not have twisted arms himself, but he made it clear years ago that media was to be a crucial plank of the WPP network. OK, some of his top dogs have been a little slow getting the point, but Gottlieb has been empowered to make it happen and MindShare enjoys a real status within WPP.

MindShare still has much work to do in building its proposition on an international platform, but last week's pan-European Nike win is testament to the strides being taken. Nike wanted a coherent network with consistent quality and MindShare beat OMD to the pounds 60 million prize. Tune in to next week's feature for OMD under the spotlight.

claire.beale@haynet.com.



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