MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Client skills could buy reprieve from media scrap heap

Just when you think you're festering on the scrap heap of media

(not so difficult - anyone over 45 should start looking nervous), along

comes a plum international job to resurrect your career.

First, CIA plucks the former worldwide client services director of

MindShare, Ron de Pear, from impending obscurity or (worse)

consultancydom, calls him chairman of international media management and

then gives him a starring role in its Time-branded supplement this week

('considering the complexities of today's media maze'). Then, Ben

Langdon - admittedly a man whose knowledge of media needs as much

scaffolding as Jordan's cleavage - hires the former Carat International

managing director Brian (surly) Jacobs as executive vice-president, head

of worldwide accounts at Universal McCann Europe.

Sure you can teach an old dog new media tricks, but at a time when media

is changing so rapidly and agencies are forced to appear more creative

and dynamic than ever before, it seems odd that two old-timers should

figure so prominently in the plans of large media networks.

But their enduring (if diminished) marketability and their longevity in

a business that is so characterised by youth is not actually so

surprising (and I don't mean because CIA has a history of raiding the

scrap heap to employ has-beens at vast expense, or that Langdon might

not be able to tell the difference between a good and bad media hiring


For a start, the real wagepayers (clients) don't adhere to the same cult

of youth that pervades media agencies, they do value experience and they

do appreciate the reassurance of a few grey hairs. And if you look at

the roles that both de Pear and Jacobs have been appointed to, client

servicing - particularly on an international scale - is fundamental. And

this sort of client servicing is something media agencies persist in

being woefully bad at. It's hardly surprising that a business which, for

the most part, is run by canny traders rather than rounded businessmen

and which has not been afforded the luxury of long-term client

relationships should struggle to adopt a mature approach to

international business management. But it is no longer excusable.

As media networks strive to build reputations as international account

handlers and drive business across borders, client servicing becomes a

very different role: one that requires statesman-like diplomacy and the

ability to instill supreme confidence at the highest level. Such skills

aren't the preserve of grey hairs, they may not even be much in evidence

in de Pear or Jacobs, but they are more likely to be the product of the

sort of top-notch international client experience that is so rare in a

media industry that is still essentially parochial and unpolished in its

approach to account handling


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