Like a lone trapeze artist falling through the air without a partner to catch them, the average creative agency must find itself regretting the move to decouple media some 20 years ago. The loss of revenue, not to mention the fundamental understanding of media channels this brought, now seems like a crashing hit.
That said, many are making strides towards recreating this togetherness. No sooner had the mince pies settled down in January than news came of a media agency launch, MCHI, jointly backed by an ad agency, CHI & Partners, and a media group, Group M.
MCHI was created out of the start CHI had made in hiring the media men Tim Allnutt and Enyi Nwosu to act as a media department in the agency. This is something others, such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty and TBWA\London, have invested in over the years.
But we're now seeing a trend for ad agencies to move far beyond sticking a media man in the corner. The Engine Group is creating a group of companies beyond the ad agency WCRS that sees the media planner Edwards Groom Saunders work with the rest of the group. Euro RSCG London is looking at a new "integrated" model in which media planners and digital people will be a key part of the agency.
And, most recently, news came in July that the TBWA Group of companies in London are to come together under the banner of TBWA\Media Arts London.
TBWA brands including the TBWA\London ad agency, the direct marketing agency Tequila\, the online business Agency.com, the brand entertainment company Stream, and the PR agency Staniforth will move into TBWA\'s Whitfield Street offices. And although they will maintain their separate brands, they'll work closely together on existing accounts, pitch for new business together and report results as one bottom line under a new management group led by Tim Lindsay, the UK president.
Importantly, given the presence of the "media" word in the new group name, it has acted to appoint a media man to a senior role in all this.
Phil Nunn, an experienced direct and digital media operator who left Trinity Communications, a planning-led start-up agency he helped to launch three years ago, in April, was signed as the executive media director of TBWA\Media Arts London in July.
Nunn started out in his marketing life client side as a direct media planner at the BBC's Radio Times. He's also worked at media agencies including Optimedia (where he launched its global digital division interactive@Optimedia) and Manning Gottlieb OMD, where he helped the agency win and build business from the likes of Virgin Media and John Lewis.
Then came Trinity, a media planning agency predicated on the three pillars of brand planning, digital planning and direct planning. It also had three partners - Amy Lennox and Simon Timlett launched the business alongside Nunn - and, with its initial leadership team at the helm, lasted almost three years before Nunn took the decision to leave. The agency continues without him, but why did he decide to walk out on the business he launched?
Sitting in a large, bright meeting room at Tequila\'s Dean Street office (which it will vacate at the end of August for Whitfield Street), Nunn says: "I basically missed working in big agencies. I loved doing Trinity and it was a huge success over 24 months and the business proposition remains rock-solid. But we sat down in January and I'd been hearing about my friends doing big pitches like Renault and I missed it."
Nunn is visibly a large man but his former colleagues say that his physical size is more than matched by his passion, commitment and incredible capacity for hard work. He's renowned as a grafter and someone who can provide insights into and help drive new-business pitches. And a week after we meet, he breaks off from a family camping holiday in Cornwall to dash back to London for the day to help Media Arts in a group pitch.
Being unkind, you could argue that the TBWA\Media Arts London launch is a desperate attempt to apply a sticking plaster to a group in need of more dramatic surgery because both the ad agency TBWA\London and the digital agency Agency.com have been through difficult times of late. But Media Arts is part of a wider global strategy. It's a UK version of TBWA\Media Arts in the US, which was originally created for Apple in San Francisco and saw media planners sitting with creative agency staff. Media Arts is now headed globally by Lee Clow, TBWA\'s renowned creative leader, and is set to become the positioning that underpins the whole network and takes its "disruption" positioning a stage further.
But what will make its approach stand out in the UK? Nunn argues that it has gone further than its competitors: "Everybody is heading this way - Euro RSCG, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, CHI. The difference is that this isn't a departmentalised point of view, we have sown media into the DNA of the whole group: it's got the word 'media' in it so we all have to do media."
Nunn believes that Media Arts will "bridge the gap between audiences and brands" and he's already made a start on this at Tequila\ before moving in September to work across the group. He makes an unlikely trapeze artist, but Nunn just might help the new TBWA\Media Arts London model fly.
Family: Patient wife, Alice; Jessica, 13; Harriet, 10; Honeycomb, 18 months
Most-treasured possession: Old clients, current clients, friends in the industry and the big speakers under my desk
Last book you read: The Invisible Man by HG Wells
Interests outside of work: n/a