Cynic Ingram sees end to the affair as clients want more

It's reassuring to know there are still plenty of cynical old bastards around. One such character works in programming at Channel 4 and scheduled 'The End of the Affair' on Valentine's Night: a film so bitter and coruscating that it was guaranteed to put paid to even the most ardent post-prandial horseplay, writes Ian Darby.

Fortunately, I'd seen it before and opted for Champagne and Marvin Gaye instead. This seemed to do the trick.

You could argue that the supposed founding father of modern media, Chris Ingram, now fits into the category of mischievous spoilsport, along with the Channel 4 scheduler. Since selling Tempus, he has re-emerged at the helm of The Chris Ingram Partnership and last week used the platform at the International Advertising Association lunch to wow diners with the theme: "Is the agency model really broken?"

At first it seemed that Ingram was intent simply on ripping the large ad networks apart. He quoted big clients (Unilever and Coca-Cola) on why traditional ad agencies are no longer working and then whipped through an eight-point plan on why the six advertising conglomerates might struggle in the future.

The old chestnuts of lack of talent, too little training, no understanding of client business, skills based in silos and an absence of accountability loomed large. More interestingly, he fingered the process of executive earnouts at ad and media agencies and the selfish focus on revenue generation that creates a barrier to real integration and co-operation between sister companies.

But Ingram also has his own agency model to sell, so it wasn't all an attack on the status quo. He put up a good argument for the existence of companies such as TIP and outlined his own business principles, which seemed workable. But, like other consultancy bosses, Ingram put the issue of implementation high up the agenda.

TIP won't get its hands dirty with creative work or media buying -- that would compromise its impartiality. That's fine for small consultancies but it doesn't offer much of a solution for the rest of the industry that actually has to create advertising or negotiate and buy from media owners.

So while it would seem that things are moving in Ingram's direction, they will still need top talent from elsewhere to make brilliant ads or buy media better.

And that's where things do get depressing for the big networks. Ingram might have a significant personal interest in all this but he's not wrong that commoditisation, greed and lack of investment are threatening the future of ad networks' relationships with clients.

Conglomerates obsessed with shareholder value should at least be wary of the direction that things are moving in. If not, countless media consultancies and the likes of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Mother will blow their houses down.

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