Media Perspective: Agencies are finally using the expertise of the media world

Last year, when the former PHD planner Tony Regan left his role as the communications planning director at the ad agency The Red Brick Road, we used the occasion to ask whether or not the trend for appointing high-profile media people to work in ad agencies was really working.

In some cases it wasn't. Over the past year or so, though, ad agencies seemed to have reassessed how they go about narrowing the divide with their media cousins. While there still remains a trend for hiring media planners to provide media nous, the nature of these hirings and their roles within the creative agency appear to have evolved in recent times.

Take The Red Brick Road, for example. Last week it emerged that it had hired Chris Ware from Manning Gottlieb OMD as its latest communications planning director. While the news may have left some asking "Chris who?", The Red Brick Road was deliberate in hiring somebody from the wider agency ranks who had frontline buying and commercial experience and wasn't one of the big-name planners. David Hackworthy, the agency's planning partner, said far too much communications planning comes across as "airy-fairy". He's right, and his hope is that in Ware, the agency has hired somebody who is practical and commercially aware.

It's too easy and patronising to say that the flair players are out of vogue and the water carrying, solid operators are flavour of the month, but accountable reality seems to have taken hold of the communications planning community. Naked has had to move this way to achieve its recent sale to Photon, and ad agencies want comms planning to have a tangible effect on their, and their clients', business, too.

Just look at Lowe's recent hiring of Rocket's Mark Sherwood as its head of communications planning. Sherwood isn't sitting on his own as some sort of aloof media guru, he is taking on account planning responsibilities, and, with the rest of the planning team, developing a new approach to planning that embraces communications planning.

More prominently, Hurrell & Dawson's appointment of Zed Media's Greg Grimmer as its third partner saw the agency hire somebody from a buying background with proven commercial ability and a track record of running a successful agency under his belt.

So, after a few years of trying, the move towards reunifying something of the media and creative disciplines looks more than likely to succeed. Media operators are impressed with the professionalism of an ad agency when it comes to brand planning, while ad agencies seem to have worked out how to use media people - for their understanding of the media business and getting things done with agencies and media owners. In small pockets, this is starting to gel very well.