Let’s imagine you run a media buying company or you’re a media owner.
Times are tight, good staff hard to come by and, as for training, well,
let them learn on the job. At the same time, the business is getting
more complex and brain power, as opposed to muscle, is more often the
What do you do? Answer: send your staff to the South Coast for four days
in November so they can rub shoulders with some of the finest people in
OK, I know this all sounds a bit odd, but it is no joke. I don’t know
what Zenith charges for Andy Tilley’s time out of the office, nor, for
that matter, what Ogilvy and Mather asks for Mandy Pooler, but I’m sure
it’s not an insignificant amount.
It must therefore have been some measure of the importance they attach
to the Advertising Association’s annual media business teach-in in
Bournemouth last week that they were quite happy to give up their time
to act as course tutors, not to mention to pass on their knowledge and
experience to their business competitors - both actual and potential.
For those of you who don’t know, the AA’s media business course is
designed for junior - but not wet-behind-the-ears - staff. High-calibre
individuals from the agency world, clients and media owners provide them
with a perspective on media from every angle. The delegates are then
given a real-life marketing and media task to fix and 24 hours to
produce a 20-minute presentation. These are judged rigorously by an
equally high-class panel of judges (well, I was one, but everybody else
was pretty high class, so you know what I mean). In short, there’s no
place to hide on this course, but I didn’t meet a single delegate who
wasn’t enthused and inspired both by the opportunity to mix with the
great and the good and what they had learned.
One criticism of the advertising industry, as a whole, is that it
doesn’t take training and on-the-job education as seriously as it might,
which is a pretty damning thing to say about a business that depends
solely on the quality of the people it employs. I have sympathy with
this point, and everything I heard about the shortage of quality staff
with between three and four years’ experience seemed to bear this out.
And, frankly, how could you not be inspired by listening to agency gurus
such as Michael Baulk and Jeremy Bullmore, top media owners, and clients
like Martin Runnacles of BMW and Derek Dear of British Airways?
For me, however, the moment that hit the nail on the head was when a
succession of clients said they wanted their media buyers to dare to be
different. Since media buyers mostly judge themselves (and are rewarded)
by price, it is not surprising that genuine innovation is hard for them
to achieve. Of course, true innovation also requires media owners to
take risks, but sales people can be just as conservative. If nothing
else, let’s hope the message sunk in to both sides after Bournemouth.