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

Campaign Media Awards offer welcome recognition for ambitious masochists

It was in October 2009 when I answered the phone to Daren Rubins. The conversation started pleasantly enough, but soon descended. MEC had just been awarded Media Week's Agency of the Year, and the then managing director of PHD, raw with ambition and green with envy, wanted answers.

Had we not seen the changes being implemented across his Omnicom agency? The agency born out of communications planning had extended its business with three new units and picked up a clutch of new business, not least MEC’s £50 million Canon account.

Was there not, ultimately, some kind of Group M favouritism going on? I responded robustly, of course. We eventually settled, with Rubins deciding the missed opportunity must be down to "bad communications". He vowed to better explain the agency’s brilliance next year. For now, he needed to know what the winning entries looked like and what the judges had said…

I recall this not to embarrass (much) the 47-year-old now chief executive of PHD, which has been named Campaign, Media Week and Marketing’s agency of the year several times since then, but to underline a point.

Variations of the above should sound cringingly familiar to many of you (Maxus, MediaCom and M2M, for instance). Leaders of media agencies are dynamic and passionate – and, behind all the smiles and niceties, they are competitive to the bone. Of course they are.

The new-business machine, still the engine of adland, is a particularly unforgiving beast. Having to expose yourselves and all those around you to the whims of unpredictable pitches and clients, and thrive during the process, represents a certain type of masochism.

'Media agency leaders are dynamic and passionate. Behind all the smiles they are competitive to the bone'

The hopes and dreams that surround every pitch, and the inevitable navel-gazing and soul searching after any loss, have the hallmarks of addiction. Agencies rise and fall due to often imperceptible, intangible moments. Getting caught on a losing run can be devastating: professional lives are changed and families are affected.

Winning Campaign’s Media Grand Prix last night was no mean feat for PHD. The accolade is testament to an all-round performance, being awarded to the agency with the highest tally of winning and highly commended entries. Congratulations go to Rubins and his team.

On the media-owner side, ITV completed a great year, Absolute Radio begins its new life as part of Bauer Media on a high and JCDecaux reminded us that biggest can still be best. Well done to all this year’s winners.