MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Channel 5 move a warning to media planning agencies

Last week Channel 5 awarded its pounds 10 million media account to its good friends, Walker Media. Bonhomie, it seemed, reigned in media land.

Last week Channel 5 awarded its pounds 10 million media account to

its good friends, Walker Media. Bonhomie, it seemed, reigned in media


Except at Carat and Michaelides & Bednash, the two unfortunate agencies

on the wrong end of the Channel 5 move. Carat - not much used to losing

business - was ’bemused and appalled’ by the decision. It thought it had

a special relationship with Channel 5 - ’clearly that wasn’t the


But, of course, Walker Media’s Christine Walker and Phil Georgiadis also

had a special relationship with Channel 5’s new marketing director, Jim

Hytner, who has worked with both of them in previous incarnations. And

Walker Media will no doubt do a fine job on the business, although

whether Channel 5’s sales director, Nick Milligan, will be better off

I’m not sure; Carat spends a lot more money with Channel 5 than Channel

5 ever did with Carat.

Despite its vocal disappointment, I suspect that Carat will be smart

enough to shrug its shoulders and concentrate on ensuring that it

generally benefits from such exchanges (remember the Channel 5/Aegis

shareholder, Warburg Pincus?)

The loss could, however, be a little harder for Michaelides & Bednash to

swallow. M&B worked on media strategy for the Channel 5 launch and

produced work which helped propel it to the lofty heights of Campaign’s

Media Agency of the Year for 1997.

But 1998 has not been going quite so well for the agency. In the past

few months it has parted company with Cable & Wireless, National Savings

and now Channel 5, three accounts that helped build its image as a

creative media hotshop.

With all three losses there are mitigating circumstances, but

streamlining their media requirements into a single agency was cited by

all three as a factor in their decision (National Savings even plumped

for a full-service solution at BMP). For them, it seems, relationships

work better in the singular.

First Direct, Britvic and, more recently, BT have proved there’s still

life in the strategic media game. But M&B’s recent fortunes show all too

clearly that the strategic media company is not necessarily a long-term

choice for those advertisers brave enough to try it. The harsh reading

would be that they sucked it and didn’t like the taste. But the truth,

perhaps, has more to do with the strides being made by media agencies in

latching on to the strategic media game, or at least the hype and bluff

which has characterised it. According to Channel 5, Georgiadis will

’bring a lot of what M&B brought to the party’.

I’m sure there’s plenty more life in the M&B dog yet, but it needs to

stay ahead or its usp will soon be swallowed up by media agencies. It’s

perhaps telling that M&B is now said to be planning a US office - it

will take years before the US media scene latches on.