Cavalier spirits have always insisted that the wave of media
centralisations in the early 90s was Roundhead work. Sensible, logical
even, but likely to lead to a greyer world. The argument was not so much
that adventurous thinking would be suppressed - though many thought so -
but that big accounts on the move would be as rare as Caribbean Test
Mega media accounts were now ’tied in’. Once a client had committed all
its spend to one agency, it was in everyone’s interest to make the
Confident in their relationships, media specialists could act more like
strategic partners, making huge commitments to staff, systems and
The consequence was an upping of the ante: smaller specialists just
wouldn’t be able to play in the big league.
So even if clients were considering a move, their options would be
Some clients have allowed their buying shops to manage their database
requirements - the information may be owned by the client but they don’t
know what’s there. Lastly, clients were being tied in to proprietary
research and trading software developed independently by media
Big may be beautiful but it is also the root of all inertia. So last
week was one for the Cavaliers: an England Test victory in the Caribbean
and one of the mega media accounts on the move - to a start-up
specialist. This is no ordinary start-up, of course; and it is no
ordinary client - we’re talking about Dixons’ decision to shift its
account out of MediaVest and into Walker Media, headed by Phil
Georgiadis and Christine Walker (Campaign, 20 February).
There are one or two personal factors at work here. Dixons found itself
at MediaVest because it couldn’t even contemplate being at
Saatchis/Zenith following the rancorous departure of Maurice and
Charles. In some ways, it is no surprise to see it following M&C and the
former Zenith boss, Walker, to their new homes.
In other ways, though, it is a huge risk. For instance, Walker Media
will have to at least double its staffing levels within the next three
months to cope with the business. That’s painful for any company at any
time, but Walker Media only opened its doors seven weeks ago - there’s
still a smell of new paint about the place.
But as a senior source who knows the Dixons account says: ’In trying to
draw conclusions from recent events, you’re making a big assumption -
that Dixons is like other clients. It isn’t.’
Difficult is one word that springs to mind. Unpredictable is
But it’s not the only jaw-droppingly big move in recent months. There’s
also Initiative Media’s coup in stealing PSA from its seemingly
impregnable home at Mediapolis, for instance.
Some specialists say that the case for agency systems and technology has
been overstated. It’s still a people business and real flair is worth a
hundred database management systems. Also, almost by definition, big
centralised media accounts are overseen by at least one media manager at
client headquarters - that in itself can guarantee continuity whatever
the external agency arrangements.
Lynda Graham, managing director of Media Audits, helps clients at the
review stage. She maintains that short-term upheaval and knowledge gaps
must be balanced against the long-term promise of better results.
’Agencies generally have a knack of getting their heads around a new
piece of business quickly,’ she states.
The bottom line is that the big accounts are not as anchored as some
people would like to think. ’Systems and knowledge are rarely
irreplaceable,’ Graham says. ’I’m not here to encourage clients to move,
but fear of the unknown shouldn’t ever become an overriding factor for