Last week Camelot became the latest in a growing army of
advertisers to award a separate strategic media planning account,
handing the business - temporarily at least - to Mediapolis. But what is
media strategy? Over the last few years I’ve sat through endless
confusing briefings about agencies’ newly discovered strategic media
credentials, clothed in that important-sounding twaddle which is a dead
giveaway that even they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Yet everyone feels the need to play the strategic media game.
Old names are given new titles and new divisions are carved out of
moribund media agencies and suddenly we’re expected to believe these
guys are media’s equivalent of Michael Owen. I’m sorry, but I just don’t
I can understand the logic. Clients demanded cheap media, media
specialists conspired to cut each others’ - and their own - throats to
deliver and so had to look for other ways to make money. Someone,
somewhere coined this phrase, ’strategic media’, and realised there was
brass in the muck.
By conjuring credentials in this field, agencies could claim added value
and bump up fee income.
But now that it’s an accepted part of the business and clients such as
Camelot are beginning to embrace it, media strategy must prove it’s more
than a ’me too’ new-business tool. I have no doubt that, for some
agencies at least, strategic media is simply that, while the best
agencies have probably always strived to go the extra mile for their
clients and take a more creative approach which doesn’t put media in a
box labelled ’commodity’.
If they can now call this considered approach strategic media - and
change extra for it - good luck to them.
But strategic media needs to be solutions neutral, outside the demands
of a creative agency’s love of the 60-second TV ad or the media buyer’s
agency deal. As media becomes more complex, there’s a real opportunity
for strategic media to sit at the client’s right hand, helping steer a
course through a complex web of communications solutions. Yet how many
strategic media divisions can make a truly unbiased recommendation that
may mean eschewing a big TV campaign with all the added benefits of
being able to plough that money through the books of its TV buying
That doesn’t mean that strategic media can’t coexist alongside either
the media buying function or the creative conception, just that it needs
to be an independent thought process, paid for on a fee basis and wholly
The problem is, there are still a number of agencies out there making a
business out of banking their clients’ money, something the commission
process perpetuates. Until we see the demise of commission as a method
of payment for media agencies, the definition of strategic media will
always be open to question