Media Perspective: Agencies must go further to find their point of difference

On the road to Gillingham last Saturday (not a journey for the faint hearted), a car sticker reminded me of Chorley FM, the spoof radio station created by Peter Kay for Channel 4's comedy Phoenix Nights.

"Coming in your ears," read the sticker, part of Kay's elaborate piss-take of small-time local radio. The sad thing was that, just over a year back, two small Lancashire radio stations were locked in conflict to launch as the "real" Chorley FM. Proving that even a pathetic excuse for a brand positioning had some value and could become massively sought after.

Obviously, media agencies spend a great deal of time agonising over their own positioning and occasionally come up with something of value. All too often though, their efforts fall into the Chorley FM category, minus the deliberate comedy value.

Last week saw the launch of a new positioning from the WPP minnow BJK&E.

Its "business first" banner apparently seeks to communicate that it puts advertisers' business goals at the heart of its planning process.

Which is pretty much what ZenithOptimedia tried to communicate exactly a year ago when it relaunched as "the ROI agency", capitalising on the drive from clients for greater accountability.

Such creations are obviously an attempt to cut through a cluttered market of agencies all doing pretty much the same thing that includes "expect more" (Initiative), "fuelling brand power" (Starcom Group) and "closer to clients" (MediaCom). Then there are the agencies - Vizeum and Brand Connection - that changed their brands completely to communicate supposed new values.

The most obvious avenues to go down with a repositioning seem to be accountability or an emphasis on planning and brand skills. And ideally you should use your "build my own agency" kit to fuse the two, as Starcom has done, because there is an obvious danger in going too strongly down one particular route.

To pick two random examples to illustrate this danger, Zenith might be pigeonholed by some as "Oh, they're those boring bastards that will get good solid deals with media owners" or Vizeum as "Oh, those wacky wankers who bang on about smile synthesisers".

So, whatever you do, you're playing with fire. But doing nothing is not an option. After all, last year's new-business league was topped by a newly liveried Initiative and the ROI agency crashed from nowhere into fifth spot.

Showing that if you get it right there's big bucks to play for in a UK market where agencies are pathetically negligent in building in points of difference.

Anyway, I'm going to create my own spoof specialist agency called Large Inserts ("Coming in your DPS"). The car stickers will soon be changing hands on eBay for mythical sums.

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