Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign and editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign and editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

Adland's Maths Men take centre stage, but success does not always add up

Some of you may have noticed: Advertising Week Europe has just hit London town. The four-day industry event bristled with energy and was far better organised in its second year - although still absolute chaos, of course.

OK, some wags suggest the event should be rebranded Media Week Europe, due to the dominance of the UK’s media scene on proceedings – but that’s no cause for complaint. The explosion of platforms and rise of adland’s Maths Men is the story of our time.

The festival had everything you’d hope for – starting with the launch on Monday of the biggest TV venture since Channel 5 went on air in 1997. It is early days for London Live, so we should resist the temptation to provide a full dissection; suffice to say, some shows do appear genuinely innovative.

Sir Martin Sorrell shared a fascinating encounter with News Corp’s Robert Thomson, who, having split the media behemoth into two, noted the "hardest thing to do in any company is to get people to truly collaborate".

The WPP boss vehemently disagreed, citing his group’s "horizontality culture" among agencies as being "fundamental" for better work and efficiencies: "If they work powerfully together, they can defeat anybody and everybody, including the new technology companies."

Sorrell went on to underline the need to be able to compete against such rivals with some provocative comments about "frenemy" Google and reports its saleforce is trying to "disintermediate" WPP, and "hang us out to dry".

'After metrics had been examined and remuneration agreed, the intangible 'chemistry' was arguably decisive'

I moderated a media panel that attempted to shine a light on the usually well-guarded pitching process, quizzing the three main players in the biggest media review of 2013: L’Oréal, ID Comms and Maxus.

Having acknowledged a reputation for being "a monster" client while at ZenithOptimedia, L’Oréal was determined to attract the best agency talent and become the most coveted account to work on.

The hugely complex business generates some £135 million in spend and 1,700 media plans a year. But what became apparent was how, after ambitions had been articulated, criteria set, strategy discussed, metrics examined and remuneration agreed, it was the intangible element "chemistry" that was arguably decisive.

L’Oréal’s media manager, Gayle Noah, said: "Chemistry formed a large part of the review, both between us and the agency, but also between the agency and themselves."

It was hard not to notice PHD’s leaders Daren Rubins and David Wilding listening intently from the sidelines. I’m not sure if such a revelation would have soothed or exacerbated any wounds. To be foiled by a metric as soft and organic as chemistry must be enough to make any Maths Man’s head spin.