HEADLINER: Self-effacing buyer pioneers the specialist TV route for CIA - Tony Kenyon may not be a visionary, but he’s a crack negotiator By Claire Beale.

Last year, CIA’s name became synonymous with dodgy deals, bad debts and tumbling share prices. A pounds 1.8 million cash pay-out and some rather damaging publicity later, the company this week announced its rescue plan.

Last year, CIA’s name became synonymous with dodgy deals, bad debts

and tumbling share prices. A pounds 1.8 million cash pay-out and some

rather damaging publicity later, the company this week announced its

rescue plan.

CIA is creating the UK’s first TV buying house and the white knight of

the show will be Tony Kenyon, IDK Media’s managing director and now

chief executive of the Negotiation Centre.

Kenyon has been in the frame since the row between CIA Media-network and

the ITV sales house, Laser Sales, erupted last summer. The dispute

centred on CIA’s interpretation of its airtime contract with Laser, but

the real problem went beyond audacious exegesis.

The disaster exposed CIA’s under-resourced, ill-disciplined TV buying

department and the vulnerability of even the biggest buying points in

the face of the pitbull power of the ITV companies.

The Negotiation Centre creates at a stroke the UK’s second largest TV

buying point, with 10.5 per cent of total TV adspend, behind Zenith

Media’s 12 to 15 per cent.

But is it just a reactive bit of positioning designed to allay clients’

concerns and to set CIA’s relationship with its joint venture partners,

such as Delaney Fletcher Bozell, on a more responsible footing? Fresh

start, new leaf and all that.

Kenyon says not. ’It’s natural that you should think that, and CIA’s

dispute with Laser may have acted as a bit of a catalyst to our


But discussions were under way before the row broke out. We’ve been

thinking about it for some time now.’

In fact, far from being a knee-jerk reaction, Kenyon says, the

Negotiation Centre is a considered solution to the changes in the TV

market. ’You’ve only got to look at the digital applications that went

in last Friday, and Sky’s plans for 200-odd channels, to see how

fundamentally the business is changing. For TV buyers, it’s a question

of resource and investment - investment in hardware and software. By

software I mean people, attracting and keeping the best staff. This way

we can run a better-resourced operation to handle the explosion in TV


Despite whispers among some media owners that the combination of CIA

Group TV billings would be used to seek revenge for last year’s public

flogging, Kenyon insists that the Negotiation Centre is not a way of

nose-thumbing the media owner. ’It’s not about an argument of size,

being able to beat the media owner over the head. It’s not a clout

issue. You have to have a certain volume in the TV market in order to

buy well, but CIA and IDK previously had sufficient volume.’

In fact, Kenyon thinks the media owners may even feel some benefit

themselves from the launch of the new buying shop. ’I think the media

owners will see this as a positive move,’ Kenyon says. ’It’s in their

interests to have fewer buying points to deal with and it will also help

if they’re working with a well-resourced and managed company.’

But what sort of company is the Negotiation Centre, really? How does the

notion of a bastard executional planning/buying operation sit with the

new emphasis on creative, strategic media communications? As well as

handling TV planning and buying for CIA Group companies - except CDP

Media, which has always stayed outside CIA’s central negotiations -

Kenyon hints that the company has greater ambitions.

’We’re not simply going to be a resource division for the CIA Group


There’s no reason why we can’t go out and pitch for TV-only business in

our own right and there’s still business like that around. We might

consider taking on buying for non-CIA companies, though that’s not a

priority for us.

’But we won’t forever be saddled with this label as a TV buying


In the future, who knows what will happen with media buying? We don’t

want to confine ourselves to an inflexible model that can’t adapt to

changes in the media marketplace.’

Kenyon may not be lauded as the most visionary media man in the market,

but his reputation as a crack TV negotiator is legendary, albeit that

the man himself demurs at any personal publicity. ’It’s not just me,

it’s a team effort,’ he insists. ’I’ll be relying heavily on the IDK and

CIA TV teams.’

Still, Mike Elms, the chief executive of CIA UK Holdings, is clear about

Kenyon’s credentials for the job. ’Tony Kenyon is the best TV buyer in

the UK by a long mile,’ Elms says simply.


1977    Benton and Bowles,


1978    Allen Brady Marsh,

        TV buyer

1980    McCann-Erickson,

        TV manager

1983    BSB Dorland, head of

        TV buying

1988    BSB Dorland, joint

        media director

1988    IDK Media, founding


1997    Negotiation Centre,

        chief executive


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