In today’s competitive and fast-moving media environment, good
ideas count for everything. An increasing number of media owners are
getting involved in the advertising process further up the chain,
dealing with creative agencies and brand owners.
It was with this in mind that Capital Radio decided, late last year, to
expand its strategic business unit to include a creative services
division, with the sole purpose of keeping creative agencies and
production houses up to speed with the latest developments in radio.
’We actually started talking directly to creative agencies about a year
ago,’ says Nikki Mendonca, head of business strategy at Capital
’We felt that the growing importance of media independents had led to
creative agencies becoming divorced from new developments in media.’
She admits that, initially, direct conversations with creatives were
sometimes difficult. ’Some of them had shied away from radio because it
was not perceived to be a glamorous medium. But the tide has started to
turn in the past six months,’ she adds. ’It’s because the pressure is
now on to create more multi-media communication plans. If the creatives
don’t know how to put together an effective radio commercial, they’re in
Capital Radio is not the only media owner to spot the advantage in
starting a dialogue further up the chain. Classic FM is expanding a
similar strategic unit, whose remit includes working with media
planners, account planners, account handlers and creatives. TDI has been
developing direct relationships with creative agencies for several
years, but this has been stepped up in the past year in a bid to keep
creatives up to date with the latest innovations in transport
At the National Magazine Company, Tim Lucas, formerly planning director
at McCann-Erickson, leads a team dedicated to developing long-term
strategic solutions for clients across its portfolio of magazines and
Channel 4 recently created a separate department specifically to liaise
with planners and clients (Media Business, 20 March).
And Carlton Digital Sales has started working with its clients’ PR
agencies to develop creative media opportunities, although it declines
to go into too much detail about them. Such moves enable media owners to
access the creative process much earlier, with the hope that better
campaigns will result.
Classic FM sales director Simon Daglish says: ’We set up the strategic
unit in response to what was happening in agencies, where the
decision-making process is moving further away from media buyers towards
media planners and account planners. We’ve also got a client services
department in order to bring the client into the loop. We find this way
of working more fruitful in terms of getting results.’
And if this does succeed in getting good results, it helps establish a
secure, long-lasting relationship with clients - and the media owner
’It’s business building - we are spreading our net into other areas
where there isn’t a direct trading relationship,’ says Mendonca. ’These
people are divorced from the rate negotiation, which gives them more
credibility with their audience.’
Capital Radio’s recent focus has been on linking radio campaigns to
television, print and internet work. As a result, Tesco has now started
to use the Prunella Scales and Jane Horrocks characters in its radio
campaign as well as in its television executions, and Sainsbury’s has
extended its TV theme music into the latest radio campaign.
So where does this leave the media buyer? Media owners still admit the
traditional relationship between the media sales team and the agency
buyers remains at the core of the business.
Yet the relationship between sales team and agency buyer is often
focused on the short term. Buyers are often too busy to listen to new
ideas from sales people, especially if they have no immediate relevance
to a client’s current schedule.
’I can see why media owners feel they have to bypass some media
agencies, because they get the feeling the agency is just not interested
in what they have to say,’ says Tess Alps, executive chairman of Drum
Consequently, Drum PHD positions itself as an agency that is open to new
initiatives and it admits it would prefer not to be left out of the
loop. ’I think we should still be the focal point,’ says Alps. ’Some
creative agencies get scared off by direct contact from media owners.
Similarly, we occasionally catch media owners trying to persuade clients
to do something they are never going to agree to without consulting
Another agency that prefers to keep abreast of new developments is
Manning Gottlieb Media. Last year, MGM set up a creative media
department designed to encourage the take-up of imaginative ideas,
whether they come from media owners or creative agencies.
’We generate media opportunities, either by talking directly to the
creative agencies we work with, or by looking for some new digital
agency that has the interactive and creative skills lacking in some of
the bigger shops,’ says Patrick Morrison, head of creative media at MGM.
’Some creative agencies’ priorities are based around how to create
award-winning TV commercials, rather than matching fast-moving and
evolving media opportunities.’
MGM recently won the National Drugs Helpline account when it pitched
alongside creative agency St Luke’s. A key factor in the win was a media
strategy that combined traditional media with a broad range of
alternative channels, which could take the message to an elusive 11- to
’This way of working - where the media and the creative idea are
developed at the same time - is the way forward,’ says Morrison. ’The
media owner contributes to this by being as creative as we are trying to
be. Good agencies understand that media owners are likely to be good at
using their own media. Then it’s easy to sit around the table and share
ideas. Ideally there isn’t any conflict. When we leave the table, we
then have a bit of a fight over negotiation - as we should do.’
Regular travellers on London buses will have witnessed TDI’s creative
media opportunities working to the benefit of its advertisers. The
company has a dedicated team of two, whose job it is to keep creatives
up to date with the latest developments. ’We’re trying to provide a
service, whether that is a template, animation spec art or anything else
that is useful,’ explains design manager Marc Evanson.
Nike’s campaign using Astroturf, and the 3D moving eyes that peered down
from buses as part of Buena Vista’s advertising for A Bug’s Life, are
two initiatives the team has developed.
Providing clients with solutions tailored to their needs gives media
owners a powerful selling tool. ’You have got to offer more than the
competitor,’ says Dave King, sales director at Emap On Air, which is
developing its cross-media sales operation and talking directly to both
agencies and clients. ’You have got to be able to offer more than just
the delivery of X thousand of the target audience, and a tailored
solution is one of the ways forward.’
It is not surprising, therefore, that most media owners predict that
more companies will go down this route.
’I think people will get better at it,’ says NatMags’ Lucas. ’It is the
best way of generating new business and probably the best way of
maintaining existing business. But for it to work, media owners have to
be serious about giving clients the results they want.’
GET INTIMATE WITH THE INNOVATORS
Promoting media opportunities to creative agencies and clients is a very
different task to selling a spot ad or a double-page spread to a buyer.
Here are a few rules to bear in mind.
Remember the media agency
Media owners can find it difficult to establish relationships outside
their normal remit. Forward-thinking media agencies are capitalising on
this by opening themselves up to creative ideas, ensuring they remain at
the centre of the process.
Remember that targeting a creative agency or client isn’t about going
behind the media agency’s back, it’s about developing innovative ideas
that build brands. Open-minded media agencies should be only too pleased
to help you do this.
Forget the hard sell
’You have to take a softly-softly approach, especially with creatives in
the bigger agencies,’ says Capital Radio’s Mendonca. ’We often get an
endorsement from client services and the head of account planning.’
It is important to remember that the aim in talking to those higher up
the creative process is to develop a long-term relationship, not just a
short-term sell. NatMags’ Lucas says: ’If you were under pressure to
close this month’s issue, it would be very difficult to have a
conversation with a client that might not generate a result for 18
months. We share the same objectives as the sales team but we conduct
our business in a very different way.’
’Account handlers in creative agencies want to be educated and to find
out about media consumption,’ says Mendonca. ’Creatives, however, don’t
want to be told how to suck eggs, so the pitch to them is slightly
It’s more about encouraging them in a workshop situation where they can
kick ideas around.’
TDI’s Evanson adopts a similar principle. ’Don’t go in there and say
’this is the way to do it’ - that won’t get you anywhere. Instead, make
them aware of innovations and establish how they feel about your
Classic FM’s Daglish stresses it is important not to be
Make sure you understand the creatives’ goals before going in with your
ideas: ’There is no point going at loggerheads with a creative team
because you’ll create an impasse.’
Motivate your contacts
TDI has found its annual award for the best bus advertising to be a good
motivator. ’Last year, the top prize was a couple of round-the-world air
tickets,’ says Evanson. ’The competition has been running for two years
and has been very successful.’
Often, it is easier to spark up a relationship with younger shops than
with the established creative agencies. In some instances, clients can
provide the way in to an agency.
’Sometimes we get the client into a workshop first,’ says Mendonca.
’They then turn to their creative agency and advise them to go too.’