At a time when media agencies are battling to offer a greater range
of services while struggling to establish a real point of difference, I
thought it would be an opportune time to raid the library of the most
recent media reels at the AAR.
Two and a half hours later I came out with a very different picture from
the one that I had expected. Two years ago only a scant number of
agencies decided that this was a useful root to clients. Today that
number has more than tripled and media agencies seem as keen to display
their work as creative agencies. Most seem to be getting their message
across and even appear to have developed some kind of personality.
Those agencies that made the greatest impression were those that were
Two years ago a client would have been faced with a hard sell - a
one-dimensional expose of an agency giving the client efficient buying,
with perhaps a few strategic frilly bits thrown in as a nice finish.
Today, agencies have moved from their price credentials to talking about
their planning and strategic skills.
Sometimes the talk about the importance of their 'people' and the
pleasant, 'fun' working environment becomes a bit hackneyed, and you
wonder if the client is left willing the agency to 'get on with it', but
turning the focus away from the agency heads to a good smattering of
people across an agency's framework is more effective. With so many
similar offerings in terms of media services, clients are ultimately
buying into teams of people.
While MindShare produced a slick spin, framing its 'house of media'
against the success of the legendary fighter Cassius Clay, and OMD UK
effectively put its point across about being a 'navigator of market
opportunities' for clients, it was CIA and Media Planning that disarmed
and charmed me most. Why? Because, putting aside the bewildering array
of primary coloured backgrounds which kept appearing behind the talking
heads, when CIA's chief executive, David Wheldon, ended the reel with:
'Are we the best?
Not yet, but we will be', the straightforward honesty of such a
statement was extremely memorable and quite endearing (especially from
CIA). Similarly, when Bob Offen, the chief executive of Media Planning,
admitted to the similarity of agencies but pointed out that it was the
teams of people that worked on the business which made the difference,
you felt that he was dispensing with the usual fluff and talking common
But while media agencies are beginning to realise the importance of
differentiating themselves and pushing further than price efficiencies,
they still face clients that like to have the extra bits, but are still
fixated by price.
Perhaps if advertisers watched enough of these reels they would be
willing to risk seeing the bigger picture.
Claire Beale is away.