MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE - The human factor can help a media agency stand out

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

refreshingly honest.

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.