Havas also looked an interesting fit for one of the big groups: Media Planning, Havas' media agency, has reasonable volume in some European markets and parts of Latin America, but currently doesn't have large enough billings to compete on a global basis.
There was also time to conduct the odd media pitch, the major ones being Kraft, Sky, Nestle and Unilever. MindShare eventually won the Unilever assignment, which prompted the next wave of speculation. Would Interpublic's media agencies, Universal and Initiative, now merge? And would the move lead to the big groups setting up dedicated negotiating/buying companies?
Increasingly, the market is moving towards fewer large- volume media agencies, but so far none of the large groups has introduced a fully combined negotiating and buying approach. All now have the potential operating structure - WPP's Group M, Omnicom's OPera, Publicis' PGM and IPG's Magna - but no organisation has felt it necessary (or been brave/foolhardy enough, given the political and client sensitivity issues) to move on to the next level of consolidation. It may just be a case of who blinks first, and then it could happen very quickly across all of the companies.
2004 was also the first year of the single ITV. Encouragingly, the new ITV wasn't as evil as some had expected, possibly because of the application of Contract Rights Renewal and the efforts of the admirable David Connolly. But it wasn't as nice as it claimed it would be either. Although it produced a pretty decent autumn schedule, audience losses earlier in the year could cost it more than £100 million in advertising revenue in 2005.
ITV also acquired a majority share in GMTV. This was fiercely opposed by the other major GMTV shareholder (Disney), most of its advertisers and, one suspects, its staff. But the Office of Fair Trading saw no issue with the acquisition, stating that there was no evidence that ITV would practise conditional selling. We're now waiting for the OFT to announce that the world is, in fact, flat.
Nick Milligan departed five to become Sky Media's managing director, following his former colleague Dawn Airey. Interestingly, even though Sky lost audience and its dish sales stuttered versus Freeview, it made no move to buy five, as many had expected it might. Some suggested (perhaps unfairly) that it wouldn't have been much more expensive to have bought five entirely, which would have delivered both Airey and Milligan anyway, along with national coverage and a decent entertainment channel.
The most sensational events in broadcast, however, occurred at the BBC.
The Corporation took on the Government with Andrew Gilligan's claims that the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been "sexed up".
The Hutton enquiry then (rather surprisingly) exonerated the Government and heavily criticised the BBC, resulting in the resignations of Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke. With Dyke gone, some commentators suggested that the BBC would temper its competitive approach, particularly with the charter review approaching.
In the slightly more sedate, less volatile world of newspapers (Guy Zitter seems to have been successfully running the Daily Mail for at least 25 years), the story was less about consolidation and more about reduction.
The Independent continued to draw new readers with its compact format and The Times followed suit, going entirely compact in November. The Guardian took a slightly sniffier line, claiming editorial integrity could only be maintained with the halfway house known as the Berliner.
The Barclay brothers bought The Daily Telegraph at the second attempt.
The first deal was done with the disgraced Conrad Black, until it was pointed out that he wasn't allowed to sell it - arguably it would have been better if he hadn't been allowed to buy it in the first place. The Barclay brothers promptly appointed the talented Murdoch MacLennan to drag the Telegraph into the 21st Century.
The most exciting news in radio also involved consolidation. The proposed merger between Capital and GWR, if it goes ahead, will create a group representing some 40 per cent of the total commercial radio market. Some discomfort was expressed by agencies and advertisers over the sheer size of the new operation, but it was also seen as potentially beneficial in terms of providing more effective competition to the BBC.
Kelvin MacKenzie's The Wireless Group maintained its battle with Rajar and the rest of the radio industry over the introduction of electronic measurement. While MacKenzie is often amusing and arguably has a point on the issue, his tactics were not particularly constructive for the industry and could prove extremely costly.
Finally of note in the media world, the internet came of age and achieved more than 3 per cent of total ad revenues - a feat that took radio more than 20 years to achieve.
2004 also saw the retirement of John Perriss, arguably the original architect of media agency separation and consolidation (he launched Zenith in the 80s). Surprisingly, his departure went relatively unnoticed, probably because the industry was busy working out how to consolidate further - and asking whether consolidation is a good idea anyway.
THE 10 BEST MEDIA THINKERS.
1. Naked founders, John Harlow, Jon Wilkins and Will Collin
Cleverness wasn't as gut-wrenchingly fashionable in media circles during 2004 as it has been over recent years. That's largely down to the fact that, having beefed up their own strategy and communications planning offerings, the larger agency groups now feel confident enough to start slagging off Naked behind its back. Which has only served to convince some of the neutral sceptics (and yes, there have been some) that Naked must have been doing something right.
2. Ivan Pollard, partner, Ingram Partnership
Pollard is one of those blokes whom everyone respects, loads of people like, but you suspect few really know. Not that that matters; his capacity for brilliantly clever but clear thinking has won him widespread respect, made all the more genuine by the fact that he doesn't play the personal PR game.
3. Kevin Brown, strategic partner, Soul
There's something totally old-fashioned and unreconstructed about Brown, which is just as well really because you'll find him working in that most unreconstructed of institutions, a full-service agency. In other words, vintage cleverness here.
4. Sue Unerman, director of strategic communications, MediaCom
Most people in the industry can barely imagine what it feels like to have other people saying they're clever. Some, in fact, would settle for a grudging admission that they're not entirely stupid, not all of the time at any rate. Some, in short, are sick to death of hearing about how clever other people are. But, while Campaign lists compilers were (by definition) not at the front of the queue when cleverness was being doled out, we look at it this way: Sue Unerman can't help it if she's incredibly clever, now can she?
5. Mark Palmer, executive head of strategy, OMD UK
Each year, we flirt with the notion that we're not going to include Palmer - a man who, in the opinion of no lesser an authority than Mark Palmer, is the greatest media thinker of his generation. And Palmer will be especially pleased this year to discover that, in a break with tradition, we haven't mentioned his old rival ...
6. Jonathan Durden, president, PHD
The D in PHD and the man who (some believe) actually invented cleverness. Durden has been so relentlessly promoted that he now calls himself Il Presidente - as such, he is required on ceremonial occasions to wear a Ruritanian full dress uniform adorned with a sash and topped off by a cockade hat, complete with a swaying panache of giant ostrich feathers. Which is not exactly clever, now is it?
7. Derek Morris, vice-chairman, ZenithOptimedia
Morris is clever in a slightly modest way, but no less clever for all that. He was a genuine innovator during his BMP media department days, and though Unity (part of the new wave of planning independents) was ultimately a failure, his new role at ZenithOptimedia puts him back where he belongs - in the mainstream.
8. Tony Manwaring, communications planning director, Initiative Media
We would be tempted to call Manwaring incredibly clever if we didn't know for a fact that he supports Spurs. The best construction we can put on this is that it shows a great sense of loyalty. Which, come to think of it, is probably also why he's fetched up back at Initiative.
9. Nigel Foote, director, Starcom Intelligence Unit
A man described by lesser mortals as blisteringly intelligent without being a backroom boffin. Which sounds clever to us.
10. John Gittings, head of communications strategy, Manning Gottlieb OMD
One of the best problem-identifiers and solvers around. He's slightly professorish and eccentric - as all super-intelligent people are, one insider reveals. He can play the piano, you know. Gulp.
THE 10 BEST MEDIA BUYERS.
1. Chris Locke, trading director, Starcom Group
Full marks this year to Chris Locke, media's favourite Essex hardman. Locke is a man who knows his own mind and is never afraid to speak it, especially if he can couple it with some profanities. The mere mention of the Locke name is enough to make junior media sellers tremble in their boots but, whisper it if you dare, his bark is allegedly much worse than his bite.
2. Nick Theakstone, managing director, GroupM Trading
Theakstone is everything that a media buyer should be - bald, occasionally angry and a good golfer. He took on the job of running WPP's centralised buying point at the beginning of 2004 and, following WPP's acquisition of MediaCom, the big question is whether his former boss Locke can continue to keep him off the number one spot.
3. Mungo Knott, buying director, Posterscope
Knott, who is a cub scout leader in his spare time, makes his maiden entry into the top ten buyers. Despite having more than 40 per cent of outdoor billings on his books, Knott is praised as civilised and good-natured. Oh, and he's also got the finest beard you'll find in outdoor advertising this side of the 1970s.
4. Mick Perry, managing director, Magna
Despite his apparently unassuming and gentle demeanour, Perry is not one to take kindly to bullshit and is consequently known for getting straight to the point in negotiations.
5. Steve Goodman, press director, MediaCom
During what leisure time he allows himself, Goodman is a keen marksman with a pistol. But don't let that put you off. Goodman applies a methodical approach to press buying and spots opportunities that lesser mortals would have missed.
6. Marc Bignell and John Overend, joint managing directors, OPera
In a year of consolidation of buying points, Bignell and Overend became the biggest buyers when Omnicom merged the negotiation firepower of OMD, Manning Gottlieb OMD and PHD. While neither is exactly what you'd call charismatic, they make an effective combination.
7. Chris Boothby, operations director, Vizeum
Despite relinquishing most of his negotiation power to Matthew Platts, Boothby is still very much plugged in to what's going on in TV and is respected by both the sales directors and his clients. With his house in Barbados, he also has the best holiday home, which may account for some of this popularity.
8. Chris Hayward, head of broadcast, ZenithOptimedia
Despite there being only small amounts of discount left to be had in the market,the no-nonsense Hayward brings an intellectual approach to media buying, honed by his years studying at Oxford, and manages to squeeze whatever extra value he can.
9. Jonathan Gillespie, head of radio, OMD
At COI's current agency of record, Gillespie manages one of the biggest radio departments in town and carries it off with aplomb.
10. Steve Platt, founder, Steve Platt & Associates
It was a case of gamekeeper turned poacher (or should that be the other way around?) for ITV's former sales supremo Platt, who found his unrivalled knowledge of TV trading in much demand at agencies.
THE 10 BEST SALES DIRECTORS.
1. Stuart Taylor, commercial director, The Guardian and The Observer
There is no greater animus in British media than that between Associated Newspapers and The Guardian. Associated management will tell anyone who's prepared to listen that there's no earthly reason why an advertiser with a full complement of marbles would ever want to use a snide left-wing rag such as The Guardian. And yet, advertisers keep buying space. How does Taylor do it? It must be something to do with selling an intelligent and well-branded product intelligently.
2. Paul Curtis, in-coming deputy managing director, Sky Media
Curtis has only recently joined Sky Media - and starts work there in March - but he has built an immense reputation for smart thinking and innovation during his years working at Viacom Brand Solutions. Curtis' appointment by Sky Media boss, Nick Milligan, is part of a major revamp of Sky's sales department, which aims to instill the importance of robust trading systems.
3. Simon Davies, advertising director, The Mail on Sunday
In an era when the world of newspaper sales has become populated by people who are thoroughly good at admin but not a lot of fun, Davies is a reminder of what the good old days were like. He's a larger-than-life character who gives good lunch and maintains a high industry profile.
4. Andy Barnes, sales director, Channel 4
Last year, we focused on Barnes' deputy, Matt Shreeve, perhaps reflecting the fact that Barnes had stepped back a bit from the limelight. This year, he's been very much at the hub of things, especially in efforts by the television industry to put together a generic TV marketing body.
5. Chris White-Smith, group sales director, Telegraph Group
One of the most passionate men in the media sales business when it comes to selling not just his own title but the medium as a whole.
6. Tim Bleakley, joint managing director, Viacom Outdoor One of the fastest-rising stars in the media business, Bleakley spent most of the year doing a cracking job selling radio for Emap - and his efforts in evangelising about digital were especially noted. Now expected to do something similar for his new employer.
7. Dominic Carter, deputy director of advertising, Mirror Group Newspapers
Both Carter and his boss, Clare Dove, have impressed the buyers this year - but many reckon that it's Carter, who handles most of the the day-to-day business, who's making the most difference to the company's coffers. Mirror Group Newspapers is punching above its weight as it continues to take on the might of News Group Newspapers.
8. Helen Brocklebank, group advertisement director, Hachette Filipacchi
Lots of people have been raving (raving very much being the operative word here) about Brocklebank. As one fan puts it: "This woman is great. Absolutely brilliant. She's absolutely bonkers but brilliant. And I don't just mean eccentric. In the Victorian era, she would probably have been locked up. Hachette Filipacchi's titles aren't exactly difficult to sell but you'll certainly never forget it when you've had a meeting with her."
9. Clare Turner, sales director, Pearl & Dean
Turner seems to have charmed the pants (not literally, we trust) off her agency counterparts. One hardened buyer went all moist-eyed when he talked about her genuine sympathy for the concerns of advertisers, her passion, her presence and her ability to resolve issues, which she does with genuine style and elan.
10. Gary Digby, sales director, ITV
The Diggers sense of humour is slightly too dry for some people's taste but underneath it all he's cuddly in a classically robust, ITV sort of a way. He is seen as a key player in the drive to re-invent the ITV sale philosophy - without entirely abandoning the golf course. Which will be no mean challenge. Fore!
THE 10 BEST YOUNG MEDIA TALENT.
1. Charlotte Topp, media manager, MediaCom
At only 26, Topp is already a veteran of faces-to-watch lists. "She's very creative," one fan says, "but what makes her special is that she is creative on a consistent basis. That's actually very rare. Her consistency and workrate are phenomenal. And then, on top of that, she has a confidence that belies her years. When she walks in, she owns the room. It can be impressive to watch. She has the lot."
2. Cathryn Gabay, business director in communications planning, MindShare
Gabay is apparently doing some impressive stuff on the agency's Nescafe accounts and has a real knack of getting creative and media to pull in the same direction. She's not a great self-publicist but anyone who comes into contact with her work is instantly impressed by the quality and clarity of her thinking.
3. Jonathan Allan, business director, OMD UK
Much is expected of Allan, who's the brightest of the young stars in OMD's business management group. He heads the teams for some of the agency's most important clients - such as PepsiCo and Siemens mobile - and has an amazing knack of developing client relationships. He knows a thing or two about the nuts and bolts of media too, having emerged via the TV buying department.
4. Duncan Owen, media group manager, PHD
Owen has already built up an impressive portfolio of groundbreaking work. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of an exclusive movie featuring David Beckham for use on the Adidas interactive television site.
5. Derren Sequeira, acting commercial development manager, ids
Sequeira is known for developing strong relationships with his clients and agencies whose business he works on - and that has helped him bring in an unprecedented amount of new business this year, especially in areas above and beyond conventional spot advertising.
6. Kelly Parker, media manager, Media Planning Group
Parker has come on by leaps and bounds this year according to observers - and, at a ridiculously young age, she has become regarded as an essential presence on several bits of the agency's most important business.
7. Matthew Hook, connections executive, Vizeum
Hook joined straight from university just over two years ago and quickly began making an impact with his clear thinking and determination to see solutions through.
8. Megan Horner, account director, Starcom Mediavest
Horner played a key role in securing both the Procter & Gamble and the Kraft business for the agency - and her innovative work on the Max Factor brand was subsequently adopted as worldwide strategy by the client.
9. Alex Blakely, sales executive, The Daily Telegraph
Featured earlier this year in our Faces to Watch feature, Blakely is continuing to make progress. The Telegraph's sales culture gives people freedom and flexibility early on in their careers and some really flourish in such an environment. It's continuing to produce people with broader skill-sets than you tend to find at other newspaper publishing groups. An insider says: "Blakely still surprises you about the sort of business he manages to bring in."
10. Daniel Friel, strategic planner, ZenithOptimedia
Known as "Mr Brainstorm", Friel's always in demand and he never fails to bring his flair and passion to any problem he's presented with. Some clients initially struggle with his impenetrable Scottish accent and his dry sense of humour.