Media Perspective: Media owners look to branded sales to boost agency effect

Media agencies have become increasingly creative, some might suggest deluded, in the creation of their own industry brands. Conversely, media owners haven't had to bother much.

They usually have powerful consumer brands with a rich set of values to sell to advertisers, while all agencies have to play with amounts to a handful of dust.

Merely calling yourself ITV Sales has been enough. Until recently, that is, when the convergence of media channels has led to sales houses selling across media. Not easy in a downturn, with greater levels of competition breathing down your neck.

For a while now, a section of the media community has felt the need to have something fluffy and light in the locker when targeting account and media planners. These are time-short people who, if they took up barely half of the offers from media owners for meetings, would have no time left at all for client business. Coupled with a need to justify themselves in more detail to buying agencies - it doesn't pay to have too many stand-offs during a slowdown - this obsession with agency planners has led to the rise of the branded sales division.

In newspapers, Telegraph Media has led the way, trading high volumes alongside building a "create" brand for the clever stuff, and there are numerous creative solutions units in television. The latest media owner to rebadge its sales effort is the Daily Mail, with the launch of its Connected trade brand, under the banner of which it will talk to advertisers and media agencies.

Why Connected? John Teal, the ad director of the Mail, says it embodies the approach the paper will take: "Collaborative working, combined with our cross-platform solutions and consumer insight, can only enhance the value that we deliver for (advertisers' and agencies') business."

Surprising to some, perhaps, because it has been famed, rightly or wrongly, for being near intransigent in negotiation and firmly of the old school. The Mail might be a bit late in acknowledging the need to change and its move could be driven by self-interest; Associated Newspapers, the paper's owner, announced a 5 per cent fall in display ad revenues during its third financial quarter. However, with the Connected effort, it can't be accused of being half-arsed.

The Mail has a serious ace up its sleeve in the shape of a large investment in research. Earlier this year, it launched its impressive MidBritons panel of consumers and, when combined with its own reader panel, this offers some insight into its audience. But will Connected amount to anything more than a fluffy badge? All this collaborative intention is good but it will be interesting to see if the net effect is positive for agencies or merely the Mail's way of fighting the move to group, commoditised trading.