Media Double standards: 'Media agencies need to play in a different way'

Two agency group chief executives discuss how the changing media landscape is spurring them to adapt their strategies, and the way they recruit fresh talent.

STEVE WILLIAMS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, OMD GROUP

- What's the most exciting development in the industry this year?

The emergence of broadband video capability in the market - many players, old and new, all colliding - really interesting stuff.

- What's the best piece of work your agency has produced this year?

Our work for the Sony PS3 launch - a big idea creating intrigue, leveraging content.

- How are media agencies restructuring for the future?

They'll need to play the game better and in a different way. We're creating an environment around our powerful agency cultures, which attracts and retains bright people. Agencies will also need a planning philosophy that is fit for purpose in today's changing world. Cover and frequency are interesting, but our ambition lies in influencing people to do something as a consequence of the communication we prescribe. Big integrated ideas, particularly through content and in the digital space come from this, and this is where the competitive advantage is.

- What sorts of interesting people are you hiring as agency roles become more diverse?

We have an open mind to who we take on and how we attract them. Diversity is increasingly a prerequisite in our world. It's about attracting intelligent and energetic people, with the right attitude. We've employed a great chap recently in OMD Ignition - he responded to our cross-track poster recruitment campaign.

- Should media be rebundled with creative?

In the new media and communications paradigm, where big ideas have to be able to work everywhere, media agencies are inevitably coming closer to the "creative" process, especially in content and digital. It's all about integration.

- What are the differences between OPera and Group M?

Raison d'etre and approach. I am not best placed to take a view on Group M, so I'll let Tom do that. OPera creates value within Omnicom Media Group agencies every day through intelligent market insights, an imaginative and collaborative approach, and "scale leverage". Our approach is bottom-up and driven absolutely by individual client need.

- How did you come to work in media?

My big sister, Jane, told me to.

- Who was the person that had the biggest professional influence on your career?

Tim Cox. Bloody hell, he worked hard - we used to take turns to open up the office before the cleaners got in. He taught me that you're only as good as your last, and your next, result, and you can improve on everything.

- What's the best piece of career advice you have ever been given?

"You'll never make it as a pro footballer, Williams."

If you had each other's job for a day, what would you do?

I'd put my feet up, for just one day.

TOM GEORGE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, MEDIAEDGE:CIA

- What's the most exciting development in the industry this year?

There isn't one single answer. Rather it's the fact that after years of speculating about how our business will need to change, this year we're seeing it really beginning to happen. See the third question below.

- What's the best piece of work your agency has produced this year?

Our work for Xerox - "It makes business sense". Firstly, because advertising photocopiers isn't the sector in which you'd think your best work is going to be produced. Secondly, because it won the gold at Campaign's Media Awards.

- How are media agencies restructuring for the future?

Our clients are charging us by producing new and more effective ways of engaging their consumers. That doesn't only mean doing what we have always done across a wider range of channels, but also that we have to extend the remit of our offering - the lines between media, creative, consultancy, research, PR and so on are beginning to blur, and we are changing our structure accordingly. For a more eloquent answer, read Nick Emery's recent Campaign article on the death of the media agency (Campaign, 13 April).

- What sorts of interesting people are you hiring as agency roles become more diverse?

We are looking across a much wider playing field for our hires. For example, Tove Okinnuwa, who heads MEC Sponsorship, was hired from the BBC. In addition, we're increasingly hiring from the client side - Sarah Hennessy from Colgate, Rosie Laurence from News International, and Terry McParlane from Orange being three recent examples.

- Should media be rebundled with creative?

Ask any media person with experience of the full-service life about the joys of waiting hours to be called into a client meeting, only to be told you've been struck off the agenda.

- What are the differences between OPera and Group M?

About £1 billion. More seriously, Group M is a true parent company that provides its member agencies with a range of support services and expertise across a wide range of areas, of which trading is only one. As I understand it, OPera is at best a trading division, and even then I believe it doesn't operate across all media.

- How did you come to work in media?

I convinced Tony Kenyon, then head of television at Dorlands, that I really didn't mind waiting hours to (not) go into that client meeting.

- Who was the person that had the biggest professional influence on your career?

Tim Greatrex, who convinced me to take my current job.

- What's the best piece of career advice you have ever been given?

That perhaps I'd be better off pursuing a more traditional career when I told my headmaster of my plans to pursue a career in art.

- If you had each other's job for a day, what would you do?

Find out the secret of Steve's recent successes, and use it to consolidate further our position as the UK's fastest-growing media agency. Then persuade those OMD clients that the grass is greener south of the river in Waterloo.

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