Mairi Clark asks whether agencies should abandon new media or concentrate on its long-term potential

Mairi Clark asks whether agencies should abandon new media or

concentrate on its long-term potential

Agencies are not prepared to invest in new media and they haven’t got

the necessary expertise. Should they give up?

Over recent years, advertising agencies have retreated into their core

disciplines, mainly due to financial pressures. New media is expensive

and expertise is in short supply.

It seems to be current policy for agencies to allow entrepreneurial

spirits to take the risks, while taking palliative action to set up

their own largely ineffectual departments, starved of funds and


In the foreseeable future, income flows from new media will be a

fraction of those from traditional media, so it’s likely new-media

agencies will stay separate.

This is bad news for advertisers, who are presiding over an increasingly

fragmented advertising marketplace without the guidance of the old-

fashioned agency account man, or the much-vaunted, but little evidenced,

total communications planner. Don’t give up, buy in.

Patrick Burton Group media director Allied Domecq

No. Primarily because it isn’t going to go away and, as new media

becomes more mass market and a key part of brand communication, it will

be part of the service full-service agencies are expected to provide


In my opinion, integration is essential and consequently there is little

option but to invest. By winning two British Interactive Multimedia

Association awards, I think that Bates has demonstrated that agencies

can acquire the expertise if they want to.

The issue is the amount of return an agency can expect from its

investment and how long it will have to wait to realise that return. It

may be a long-term game, but the agencies that develop expertise now

will capture the high ground.

Mike Crossman Managing director Bates Interactive mcrossman@bates-

Well, obviously, if they’re not prepared to invest and they don’t

acquire the expertise, then yes, they should give up. They’ll be

outclassed by the proverbial spotty blokes in bedrooms anyway.

And for the next few years agencies will get away without new-media

expertise because, for most clients, it’s still a marginal part of the

mix. Hence there’s not much money in it.

But wait until the Internet is embedded into every communications device

- then agencies will spend the money and acquire the expertise. And, at

this point, their political skills, brand management expertise and

networks will blow the new-media specialists out of the water.

Unfortunately, you can’t manage global communications from your bedroom.

Russell Davies Marketing director Leo Burnett

The traditional agency is little more than a bank for the client’s media

expenditure, with creative services thrown in for good measure. Agencies

have never been very good at innovation, generally following the demands

of their clients. Research and development is a fount of new products

for other industries, but in the agency world this function doesn’t


However, there are a few major players making substantial investments.

These are the agencies that think beyond next year’s media spend to a

world where the very nature of retailing and communication has changed.

They are agencies that consider broader issues of communication, not

just the advertising market. If agencies wait until the client has a

demand they’ll find it’s too late. The business - and the future - will

have gone elsewhere.

Paul Syrysko Managing director Stream

Despite having just left one of the best ad agencies in London to set up

Indexfinger, I don’t automatically subscribe to the view that ad

agencies are unable to operate in this area.

It’s unfair to suggest that they don’t have the expertise in-house -

they don’t have photographers or film directors, but still co-produce

great ads.

What they do need is a more open-minded approach to collaborating with

trusted third-party companies and to accept that they really can’t do

all of this on their own.

However, in some cases, their egos will hold them back.

Mark Dickinson Managing director Indexfinger

Java, Castanet, live 3D, platform-independent cryptology, real time

streaming protocol, naked dancing llamas. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

For the Internet to achieve universal acceptance, it’ll have to take off

its anorak and step out of the closet.

And when that happens, the only new-media companies still in business

won’t be those that can speak fluent cyber-ese, but those that have

learned to abandon crude, hard-sell techniques in favour of a more

compelling and creative approach. And they’ll have to compete with the

ad industry, which went through the same learning curve before the Web


Peter Mill Senior partner the Leith Agency


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