PERSPECTIVE: Why media shops must start calling the creative’s tune

In all the excitement over WPP’s annual results statement last week, and chief executive Martin Sorrell’s slating of rampant inflation on TV, few stopped to question his warning that advertisers could pull out of TV.

In all the excitement over WPP’s annual results statement last

week, and chief executive Martin Sorrell’s slating of rampant inflation

on TV, few stopped to question his warning that advertisers could pull

out of TV.



Sorrell hit out at the rising cost of TV advertising on both sides of

the Atlantic and cautioned that inflation could prompt clients to

consider other media. Nothing new in that argument - so-called ’other

media’ have been peddling that line themselves in recent months, as a

quick glance at the poster outside your office will testify.



What’s interesting is not that Sorrell is smart enough to recognise the

opportunities of new media and digital TV (anyone who is set to make a

pounds 25 million bonus is pretty smart in my book), but that he should

choose to make media the headline of his financial statement.



Sorrell is no stranger to hitting the headlines with a media story. You

may remember the Campaign front page from 1996 when he announced that

the media departments of J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather should

merge. That particular story was born out of Sorrell’s frustration that

his agencies could not bury political hatchets and get the thing (now

called MindShare) moving themselves.



I wonder whether last week’s headlines had something of the same

motivation behind them. Because one thing’s for certain, no matter how

sensible it might seem from a media point of view to take a more

cost-effective route than TV when inflation is running well into double

figures, creatives still love a good old 30-second commercial.



The sad truth is that while MindShare is poised to launch as a creative

media operation, media companies are still battling with creative

preferences for certain media environments. For all the clever-clever

media ideas, if the creative agency has already decided on a

high-profile TV campaign, then the options for the media company to make

a difference are limited.



Things are changing, of course. Increasingly, advertisers recognise that

media agencies can help them understand and navigate communications

requirements, leaving creative issues to be addressed once media

strategy is decided.



But even the most successful media companies still ring me up to

announce proudly that they’ve been selected by some second-rate creative

agency to act as their partner in a creative-led pitch.



Maybe Sorrell is right, and advertisers will move their money out of TV

if prices continue to rise. But for this to happen, clients and

creatives must recognise that media companies have the insight to drive

such decisions and come up with alternatives before the creatives get

excited about the prospect of an overseas shoot.



And that means putting media right at the front of the process. As

MindShare prepares to open its doors for business, is there a message

here for JWT, O&M and other creative agencies around town?



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