One of the few advertising generalisations that comes anywhere near
to being an invariable rule is that media owners are rotten clients:
intractable, unappreciative, suspicious and unable to distinguish
between good and bad advertising.
Part of the explanation must be expense. Media owners use the same
suppliers as agencies, but the price lists are wildly disproportionate.
Photographers have one rate for newspapers and magazines and another for
agencies. Media owners may understand the work is different, but they
argue that a daily rate is a daily rate. No wonder some editors maintain
- secretly or otherwise - they could do their own advertising if only
they had the time. Like all difficult activities, when done well it
looks absurdly easy.
But there’s more to the Guardian’s decision to sack Leagas Delaney than
these generalisations. In fact, it’s one of those agency reviews whose
credibility falls down as soon as the reasons for it are examined. It
seems that Leagas Delaney has fallen foul of two factors which in
combination proved fatal: first, the paper’s editor wants brand and
tactical advertising for the same money, about pounds 2 million a year.
Given Alan Rusbridger’s leap up the deference scale thanks to his
presiding over an improved and agenda-setting title, he will stop at
nothing less. Second, changes at the Guardian marketing department since
the agency was appointed meant that the chemistry was no longer as
special as in the early days of the relationship.
Whispers from the Guardian camp suggest they suspected Tim Delaney’s
attention was more focused on Adidas and the agency’s growing San
Francisco shop than on the newspaper. A strange argument, given that
Leagas Delaney’s work for the Guardian has been working (and winning
awards) in a market that pretty much defines the term cut-throat. For
three years the Times and Telegraph have been selling on average at less
than half the price of the Guardian, whose circulation has remained
rock-solid. In fact, Leagas Delaney’s last ad for the Guardian, ’the
editor’, resulted in the paper’s biggest ever Saturday sale.
It is also a fact that many - most, perhaps - of the agency’s Guardian
commercials were made possible on a goodwill,
you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours basis. As a bitter producer said
in Campaign last year, when Delaney called for production companies to
match the cost control that has been forced on agencies by sharing bulk
discounts: ’When we need a favour - say, Tim Delaney coming to us with a
Guardian script and only pounds 30,000 to spend - we call in the favours
and make the film.’ Galling, isn’t it, to see an agency lose a fantastic
piece of business for doing great ads at minimal cost to the client?
Media Spotlight, p22.