MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Middle-size media shops give a better fit than XXL option

I went into a clothes shop last weekend to buy a hoodie for my son.

The racks were full, the only problem being that they were all large

size and red, so I took my business elsewhere. Even so, Henry Ford's

dictum seems alive and well in British retailing.

There's a parallel with what's going on in the media buying world. It's

a trend that's been underway for some years, but the disappearance of

CIA into the stodgy, indefinable but undeniably large behemoth of Global

Media Edge underlines it.

"Yes sir," the new-business director cries enthusiastically. "I think

you'll find that we've got just the thing to suit you. It's our new

marvellous one-size-fits-all proposition." "What size is that?" the

client marketing director asks, looking for a home for a £5

million to £10 million media account. "It's our new, super-duper

XXL size," the media buyer says. "Er, right, I'll get back to you," the

client says, hastily replacing the receiver.

Now, in an age of consolidation, XXL may suit the agenda of the giant

holding companies who love willy waving, but it doesn't necessarily suit

the client. Let's leave to one side the murky question of clients being

shoehorned into agency deals to make up the numbers. The simple truth is

that, if you're a £5 million client in a £500 million to

£750 million buying operation, you don't necessarily command the

attention and effort you might want. The smaller your spend, the more

disproportionate the effort you want from your media buyer, but the less

likely you are to get it.

But where do you think your average £5 million account resides in

order of size in some of the biggest media buyers?

I'll tell you; go down the client list of one media buyer and the £5 million account is 24th; go down another and it's 45th. I'm sure you

get the drift.

Fortunately, in this country at least, there is still some choice if you

don't want to be near the bottom of some media buyers' priority lists -

mid-sized independents such as Walker Media, BLM, which took the unusual

step last week of releasing its consolidated p&l figures to journalists,

good old Ayling (the Mr Kipling of media buying), Total and the like are

all surviving. In fact, judging by their MMS figures, they're


Talking of MMS figures, the BLM p&l figures tell an interesting story.

Sales (ie billings) rose a marginal 4 per cent or so in financial year

2001 over 2000, yet income as a percentage of sales rose from 8.7 per

cent to 12.15 per cent - an increase of just less than 50 per cent. How

come? Well, BLM is offering higher-margin consultancy, new-media and

creative work - something unheard of for a so-called mid-sized media


What does this tell me? First, the XXL media offering doesn't suit


Second, there's life, not the predicted slow death, in the much-derided

middle ground.

- Claire Beale is on maternity leave.


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