Jeremy Lee: New generation has consigned media as we know it to history

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 09 February 2012 08:00AM

I can't say that I'd ever heard of Anna Watkins before last week but, as the Forum on this page makes clear, the new managing director of Initiative is part of a wider trend that has seen more women rise to the top of media agencies (media owners have traditionally been a little bit more female-friendly).

Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee

Watkins seems to have the right balance of digital skills for a modern media agency and will no doubt be a useful addition to the team assembled by the likeable and clever Alex Altman.

It shows how much the media industry has changed - largely for the better - in recent years that talent that is a little obscure and from a non-traditional media background (as well as female) can make senior management positions. In fact, maybe even a decade ago, the wonderfully quiet and understated but wryly amusing Altman himself might not have been selected as a chief executive. Back then, things just seemed a little more brutal.

It's nearly 18 years since I started my media career. It was in the days when the agency Tommy Timebuyers squared up to the airtime Spot Monkeys. I was the latter and, being both determined and a bit stupid, I persevered longer than I should have, even though it was obvious to everyone else that I was absolutely hopeless at it.

Back then, the only woman to make it to the very top was Christine Walker, there was no Channel 5, Sky was still analogue, DAB radio was just a dream (some things never change) and the national newspapers could still claim credibility. Equally, the very thought that you could become a millionaire just by working for a company that owns no media (other than the data and content provided by users) but just provides the interface for its users to interact would have seemed laughable.

Perhaps this point stands. That's why it was difficult not to smile at calls on Twitter for users to deactivate their Facebook accounts to see how far those who had built the business could then disrupt the ludicrous sums of money that are being bandied about for the social network's IPO.

One of the best things about being a columnist is the privilege to provoke a response, and I've been fortunate enough to enjoy (maybe not the right word on all occasions) feedback both when I've got it right and got it wrong.

But in an era when it's important to know your DPM from your DSP, media has assumed a new level of professionalism that must be welcomed, albeit with an eye on the past.

With this in mind, it seems appropriate to hand this media column over to the youthful but capable hands of Katherine Levy. I won't be going far, however (about four editorial pages), so look forward to hearing from you soon, for better or worse.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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