The UK media scene still has its share of greatyoung leaders

It's hard to respect all those old whingers who bemoan the death of great British comedy. The likes of The People's critic Garry Bushell would rather return to the music-hall era than admit that the likes of Black Books, Early Doors, Extras and Peep Show are actually quite funny.

Having said that, nostalgia can provide a comfortable refuge from current troubles. Hence there are people wondering, in the light of Mark Cranmer's departure from the UK media scene, just where have all the great agency characters and leaders gone?

There's certainly an argument to be made that in the past couple of decades, a great number of maverick and brilliant characters have come to run media businesses. Most of these either started out in full-service agencies or launched their own media independents (or both).

So you can add to Cranmer's name the likes of Christine Walker, the founders of PHD, Mark Craze - first at TMD and then at Carat - and Colin Gottlieb, the founder of Manning Gottlieb OMD.

Many, if not all of them are still working in media, but are of a certain vintage. Set against such characters, recently appointed leaders of modern media agencies seem to be cut from a different cloth.

The majority of them have come through the ranks of the media specialists and don't have much in the way of entrepreneurial zeal.

Now this is probably a good thing for the large networks - they seem to possess in spades loyal, capable, reasonably talented leaders who show very little inclination to leave to do their own thing. And it can come as no surprise that events have evolved in this way.

The modern media agency chief executive has had to deal with a relatively conservative environment and has grown up during a period where there has been a trend toward longer working hours, an emphasis on increasing margins at all costs and a continuing bias towards a commoditised market based on trading and agency deals. You could argue that these developments leave little room for brilliance beyond the balance sheet.

But, as with all arguments, this one falls down owing to a few honourable exceptions. MediaCom's management team, for instance, who, while they were well rewarded following Grey's acquisition of The Media Business, still treated and ran the agency with a passion and a vigour that is sometimes hard to understand.

So, personally, I don't think things are as bad as the doomsayers make out. There are more than a few young leaders out there who possess star quality. And I'm sure there were more than a few mediocre Bobby Davro equivalents out there in the 80s and 90s. We just live in more considered, less brash times.

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