It was interesting to see the US ad industry's reaction to Interpublic's recent announcement that it was disbanding Interpublic Media, its umbrella unit established in 2005. Rather than continue to mirror other holding companies' gargantuan media-company consortia, IPG chose to, in its words, "align" its media shops with respective creative agencies (specifically, Universal McCann with McCann Erickson and Initiative with DraftFCB).
This sounded both honest and commendable to me. In this time of exponential change in the media world, shouldn't every agency - media or creative - be re-examining how to get media and creative to work more closely together?
After all, today's most amazing examples of powerful marketing communication boast a very fuzzy line between creative and media. (Think of Dove's viral video on the beauty industry as an example. Creative idea or media? Hard to say.)
If one buys that such ideas are the future, wouldn't one then argue that keeping media and creative separate is actually the biggest mistake one can make? Call me naive, but I not only believed IPG's stated reason for the reorganisation, but was also impressed by the courage demonstrated in publicly admitting it needed to change.
Immediately following the announ-cement, however, talk exploded across the US ad press that IPG had blinked. Conventional wisdom held that IPG's management was weak, indecisive or simply confused for having reorganised media operations for the second time in less than two years. Articles abounded questioning IPG's motives and its relative strength among worldwide media giants.
What was at the root of all this speculation? Could US media players really know that IPG's plan was doomed? Or did many in the industry just need to believe the reorganisation was an ill-considered move so they could feel more comfortable with their own company's more traditional structures?
It's not enough any more for a media group to be big. Or even smart. We have to have that most elusive of ingredients: ideas. Big, original, captivating ideas are necessities today, in order to aggregate audiences when mass media can no longer do that. And the more we can allow inventive people to come together and create magic, the better.
I'm not saying IPG's restructure will necessarily lead to brilliant ideas. Creativity takes not only organisational change, but also the right culture and a talent pool decidedly different from many of today's large US media shops. But I do believe the intention - to bring creative and media closer together, and to insist the two work collaboratively with ideas at the centre - is commendable. It's too bad the rest of the industry doesn't seem to agree.
- Lisa Seward is the North American media director of Fallon.