Do not be fooled. This "what do I know?" tactic is a precisely sprung trap into which he lures his audience. He then delivers the killer blow: he says something outrageously clever.
At the recent Campaign Media Awards bash, Phil, as the chairman of the judges, made the obligatory pre-dinner speech - the one generally drowned out by guests chatting and getting the first bottle of Pinot Grigio down inside. Phil chuntered through his thank-yous, then proclaimed that this year's entries confirmed the "emergence of the media owner as media planner".
Ah, the coup de grace, provocative, challenging and disconcerting, as usual. Unsurprisingly, this one played rather well with the media owners present and Phil was rewarded with an unprecedented (for a pre-awards dinner speech, anyway) whoop of appreciation.
Less clear was how it went down with the agency media planners in the room. Did they agree? Are the media owners now planning better than the agencies? More than a few clients would be thrilled to save all those fees and take their briefs directly to the media owners. Perhaps this really does signal the beginning of the end for the media agencies ...
There can be no doubt media owners have moved miles beyond flogging empty spots and space to contributing effectively to solving client communications problems. The canny ones have recruited from media agencies and now boast a legitimate strategic planning resource. But the media owner as media planner? Somehow I just don't see the Mirror turning up on Sun-originated media plans, or ITV proposing a major share of its budget goes to Sky.
Would the planners at Emap really recommend a package of IPC magazines?
Or JCDecaux suggest a radio-only schedule?
Media owners may be more inventive and client-oriented than ever but they can surely never be credibly media-neutral, the be-all and end-all of modern planning. The truth is that nobody can be media-neutral quite like a media agency, meaning that Phil will still be in a job even if, just this once, one of his thoughtful pronouncements turns out not to be entirely accurate.