Media planning has moved a long way up the food chain - few would
argue against that. But the question of whether it is best placed
in-house with the creative agency or is more at home in the media shop
still divides the industry down the middle.
The debate reared its contentious head again last week when Nestle
Rowntree decided to move its strategic media planning account out of its
creative agencies, Lowe Lintas & Partners and Roose & Partners, in order
to centralise the business into MindShare (Campaign, 11 February).
The move comes as Lowe Lintas is looking to re-establish its in-house
media planning department, a signal perhaps that not all clients are
happy keeping all their eggs in one basket.
Ian Milligan, marketing director at Camelot, is another client who is
convinced that he gets better service by farming his requirements out to
separate companies. Camelot uses Mediapolis for media planning, BMP OMD
for buying and WCRS for its creative account.
’We appoint on a needs basis but you have to be sure that your
contractors integrate well and that the key individuals can operate as a
team. Planners can often feel threatened by buyers so we included them
in the media buying pitch,’ Milligan says.
A common moan from media executives is that, in an ad agency, the
creative director is master and everyone and everything must bow to him
- it’s about doing TV commercials and it doesn’t matter how good a
planner you are, the decisions will be taken above you.
And while plenty of ad agencies say there is a close connection between
media and creative, in reality media considerations are often secondary
to creative ones.
But if media planning is kept outside the ad agency, does creative
Paul Briginshaw, creative director and one of the founding partners at
Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, has worked on both sides. When he
joined Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in 1992, the entire media planning
facility was in-house. It later moved outside when New PHD was founded
Recently, Miles Calcraft hired Janine Abrahams, formerly of MindShare,
and planning is now a key element of all the agency’s pitch
’When you are creating a campaign you might have a rough idea that it
will go on 48-sheets but half way through the process that might change.
You can’t have a one-track mind about the media because of the numbers,’
’At Abbott Mead we worked closely with the media planners at New PHD but
you increasingly felt like you were being given packages of media that
were cost effective but didn’t have the impact we wanted.
’In my mind, good creative is the most cost effective way. Most of the
clever media ideas come from the creative department anyway, not the
media companies, like the VW ’bubble wrap’ campaign.’ (Adshells were
enclosed in bubble wrap to illustrate the campaign’s ’protection’
Of course, the counter argument is that it’s impossible to expect media
companies to come up with the best strategies when they are not privy to
the creative process.
Paul Longhurst, the former media director at Ammirati Puris Lintas and
now managing director at Quantum, lost a five-year battle to get
planning in-house at APL.
’I don’t believe there is the will today in agencies to pull planning
in-house. You can say it and you can do it but if the cultures of the
agencies won’t permit it, it won’t work. I believe it can work, but it’s
not happening in the market place.
’Lowe is making sure that it helps the clients that want it that way,
but if there’s just a handful of people to keep a few clients happy,
that’s just lip service and it’s not going to work.’
There is also the problem of a shared level of understanding between the
media and creative disciplines. Longhurst believes that most new
recruits to advertising don’t understand media and dismiss it as
something that happens elsewhere.
But it isn’t just a problem at a junior level. A call to one of Lowe’s
senior creatives asking if his ability to do his job has suffered
because of a distance from planning, brings the following response: ’I
don’t know anything about media, I’m not the right person to ask.’
So are others likely to follow Lowe’s lead?
’Media has become a very important part of the communications strategy,’
David Pattison, chief executive at New PHD, says. ’Advertising agencies
make ads and that is their creative solution. Offering media neutral
solutions and having a full understanding of media comes from a media
specific area. Media specialists have an opportunity to be very
influential. The money is now in media planning and clients are
increasingly realising that it is worth paying for.’
There is also the issue of which outfits are attracting the best
planning talent. Media independents like Michaelides & Bednash offer a
strong argument in their favour.
’The most successful companies are the most focused ones,’ George
Michaelides, managing partner at M&B, says. ’We have moved on. Media is
highly strategic now. Planning is just about deciding whether to put two
ads in The Observer and one in The Times or the other way around - it’s
’If you don’t have planning within the creative agency, you can take a
more holistic approach. Lowes can get away with bad planning because
they are an advertising agency. We can’t because it’s all we do.’