They like their degrees, those people at New PHD. Not content with
their doctorate in philosophy, last week they went out and acquired an
MSc. Are they trying to tell us they’re brainy, or what? All they need
to do now is poach Phil Georgiadis from Initiative and set up an
operating unit for him to run - called DPhil, of course - and then
they’d have the set.
MSc is actually short for Media Science, the joint venture New PHD set
up last week with Partners BDDH and the latest permutation in the
evolution of strategic media planning. In the early days, creative
agencies tended to talk a good game and managed to keep some form of
media communications guru on the premises somewhere.
Then the specialists woke up and started hiring their own gurus. Stage
three was the advent of strategic media planning specialists such as
Michaelides & Bednash. Now we are on to stage four and the ultimate
sophistication - the first hybrid that can pretend it subsumes each and
every one of the previous stages.
Hybrid or mongrel? MSc will be based on BDDH’s premises but will be a
standalone company in the sense that it will be a separate profit
It will also, for the time being, be a one-client operation.
In fact, the client in question appears to have had a significant role
in its creation. Mercedes, which handed its creative account to Partners
BDDH in January, recently put its pounds 10 million media planning and
buying account up for review. BDDH put it to the client that strategic
planning should best sit alongside account planning. According to one
Mercedes source, ’it was the right opportunity at the right time’. The
company has now amended its media review, which will be a buying-only
Is this an elegant solution to a perennial problem? Or an opportunistic
ambush of the Mercedes media pitch? Is it a blueprint that other
creative agencies should think of following? Or are there as many flaws
in this structure as there are in other media planning solutions? Won’t
there, for instance, be friction between MSc and whichever buying agency
Mercedes chooses to appoint?
Nigel Long, the chief executive of Partners BDDH, says not. ’Of course,
we will have to feel our way,’ he admits. ’We will have to be very clear
about where the planning brief begins and ends.’
But why the joint venture? Couldn’t they just hire their own
Not really, Long says. He adds: ’We want the most experienced people and
also access to research. MSc, because of the skills, background and
personal approach of the partners at PHD, will attract the best in the
And it will help to plug in to the market intelligence a big buying
’A joint venture was the best way forward. We could have done other
things on a short-term basis but we didn’t want merely to have a loose
arrangement with a specialist and have someone here on what would amount
to a secondment. We believe this is a bigger idea. We see this as a way
of building a business, a powerful pitch tool.’
Are other creative agencies ready to be convinced by this particular
approach? Michael Finn, the managing director of Duckworth Finn Grubb
Waters, likes the idea in principle. ’We have had similar discussions
with media players, including PHD, on something similar. Although media
isn’t up for grabs on the pitch-lists that agencies like us get on, we
are up against agencies that have media information. So it would be a
benefit in new-business pitches,’ he admits.
He concedes that it’s a better solution than trying to employ planning
expertise directly at the creative agency. But he can foresee many
potential difficulties. A standalone joint venture might be considered a
bit of a backwater - not a good career prospect for top talent. ’I don’t
think there would be demarcation problems between it and the buying
agency,’ he adds. ’That’s the easy bit. But how does it get financed?
Are the creative agency’s margins cut?
Or, as tends to be the case at the moment, is it financed at the expense
of the buying shop?’
According to Paul Bainsfair, the joint chief executive of BST-BDDP, the
new initiative could be a signal that things are coming full circle. But
he advises against reading too much into it. ’It has always been the
view of most full-service and creative agencies that media is an
integral part of advertising, not a separate discipline. Where MSc is
concerned, however, are they saying they have a genuine belief about
this route? It looks rather like opportunism to me.
’As an agency we have a direct involvement in media planning - on our
accounts there are three or four people with good minds and strong views
when it comes to media. There is no demarcation and I think it is wrong
to create any. The good ideas can come from anybody. It is wrong to try
to locate media ideas in any one place.’
Robert Campbell, a creative partner at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe,
also harbours doubts. ’I regret that I am not a media man - it’s the
most interesting part of the business now. Creatively, it is the most
powerful canvas we have to experiment on these days and I sometimes wish
the whole business would realise that. Pictures, words and media must
work as a whole - as I think it did on our ’Miller Time’ campaign.
Its power derived from the fact it was a strong media idea.
’We work closely with media people who look at things qualitatively and
understand the effects media has. You can take an idea and check it out
with media people. And in an ideal world I would be very interested in
having media people around who could keep asking, ’Have you thought of
this?’ But you don’t necessarily need them in-house - having them on the
other end of the phone doesn’t matter too much if they are the right
media people. They don’t need to be on site.’