Media: A Moment with Marquis

I would love to be a fly on the wall at the forthcoming pitch for The Guardian. The quality of thinking and creativity will be top-notch.

This is, after all, one of adland's most coveted accounts, with an advertising history littered with masterpieces, one that will bring the contenders to the very top of their game. It will be a tough contest.

The newspaper has just won a D&AD black Pencil for its Berliner relaunch, the design equivalent of an Oscar for Best Picture. This is one of those fairly rare circumstances in which the client's creativity is also at its peak. No pressure, then.

And last, I would like to see how the shortlisted agencies deal with The Guardian's marketing director Marc Sands' internet challenge (Campaign, 9 June): this pitch "questions the competence of the agencies to understand and deliver the web as a media channel that asks slightly different strategic and creative questions ..."

It is not often a client makes public his brief on a spread in the trade press, so no excuses for not answering it. And yet, on the page opposite, Johnny Hornby makes the valid point that clients need to brief agencies in a media-neutral way, given the plethora of communications channels now available. Indeed. A major ad review is one of those infrequent opportunities to strip away all prejudices, all givens, all old (or even new) wisdoms and see the communications challenge afresh.

Media owners have, by their own admission, always been tough clients for agencies for the simple reason that they are in much the same business, doing many similar things - pictures, words, layouts etc.

The Guardian, moreover, creates more original content than any agency in town and has led the way in online publishing. It knows what it is talking about. So the question is not just about the internet as a media channel, it is about the internet as an already important and growing part of the Guardian brand.

So, where do we come out of this debate? Yes, we need to be media-neutral in the sense of ruling nothing out. But yes, in the specific case of The Guardian, we'll need a clear strategy for the internet and (if I'm picking up the signals clearly from Sands) well-worked indications of how this will actually look and feel, too. I guess the competing agencies all know this, but you can be sure that, on the day, someone will tear up even these rules and give The Guardian something edgy and difficult to think about.

- Simon Marquis is the chairman of the National Readership Survey and the former chairman of ZenithOptimedia.


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