Something was not quite right at HMDG's fifth birthday party last week. There were media people there.
From Fru Hazlitt and Guy Zitter to Nigel Sharrocks and Stephen Quinn, media types turned out to toast HMDG’s survival. Partly, this is because the agency has a media principle and influence. Partly, it’s because HMDG has roots going back to the old days of full-service advertising. And they’re nice guys.
But it was an interesting mix. Too rare. Although this is an industry still obsessed with integration – determined to prove that agencies of every hue can all work without ego or prejudice in a warmly collaborative cuddle on behalf of their shared clients – it’s not often you find adlanders crossing the old industry divides after hours.
Take our Big Awards last month, notable for the absence of media people who worked on the celebrated campaigns. And I can guarantee creatives will be harder to spot than a full glass at our Media Awards this week. As for next week’s Campaign A List bash, if it follows the form of previous years, anyone with media in their job spec will be at one end of the room, everyone else at the other.
There simply aren’t the same sort of bonds being built between people from the different disciplines that there used to be (and, yes, I’m resisting the temptation to add "in the (good) old days"). This might not obviously matter much, except that without the rich network of friendships and trust that used to exist when everyone worked under the same roof to the same business objectives, the industry has lost some of its social fabric. For a business that’s still, essentially, about people, the powerful connections between them and the favours they do each other, that’s not good.
On the other hand, there’s certainly more mutual respect between media and creative agencies now that the old hierarchies have been smudged. Media has more than proved its worth. You’ve only got to take a look at the operating profits of the media agencies compared with the creatives in our feature this week to see who runs the stronger businesses with the better margins.
Mind you, I can’t imagine any media agencies are paying their key directors anything like the salaries recorded by Kingston Smith W1 this week (Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s highest-paid director earned £708,000 in the latest filed accounts; someone at Wieden & Kennedy took home £647,000, despite a 54 per cent tumble in operating profits). Media agencies, it seems, make more money but pay less. And that’s one industry divide that won’t be narrowed any time soon.
Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign