SPOTLIGHT ON: ACCOUNT REVIEWS: Does Dixons’ move to Walker Media carry too much risk? - Can the fledgling outfit get into shape to cope with its client, Alasdair Reid asks

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 match victories.

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

match victories.



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

relationship work.



Confident in their relationships, media specialists could act more like

strategic partners, making huge commitments to staff, systems and

resources.



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

limited.



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

agencies.



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

another.



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

them.’



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