The job of writing about media companies is not always a happy
While colleagues covering creative agencies get to spend their days
watching colourful - and, hopefully, entertaining - showreels, fighting
off armfuls of flowers or crates of champagne from eager PRs and
lunching at the Ivy, we media journalists are left struggling with the
latest consignment of dry media agency missives claiming ground-breaking
research guaranteed to give said agency a secret weapon in the media
planning and buying war.
Some agency somewhere is no doubt even now working on an expensive piece
of research revealing that young people use the Internet and like music
magazines and that housewives with kids watch the Cartoon Network but
really enjoy Coronation Street.
Their findings will soon thud on to my desk along with a raft of eerily
similar studies, the like of which are best described as blindingly
I’ll flick through, just to make sure there’s really nothing
earth-shattering and, eventually, they’ll be filed in Campaign’s library
where they’ll nestle alongside the same report, written by a different
media agency (but perhaps by the same people) years ago.
At a stroke, many agencies undermine their valiant attempts at market
positioning by backing up their business philosophies with a bland mix
of cliches and hot air masquerading as sound and insightful media
thinking. Most media agencies you care to name have been guilty of it in
recent years, and those that haven’t are probably chastising themselves
for not getting their act together.
It’s hard to tell whether these reports ever change the way the
commissioning agency actually performs on its clients’ business, but I
suspect that most of them end up as new-business tools, PR vehicles and
perhaps an excuse to charge additional fees to existing clients.
Now Western International Media’s already scored well on the PR front
with the launch of its Futurescope research, and it could certainly do
with a leg-up on the new-business front. But where Futurescope is ahead
of the pack is in trying to predict media habits of the future.
Futurescope challenges some of the received wisdom about the digital age
and raises rather worrying issues about the way consumers will avoid
exposure to advertising. Seemingly, almost a third of the population
always avoids advertising (for cable and satellite, the figure is more
than 40 per cent) and it’s growing.
This research is guaranteed to get you thinking and to get the better
agancies acting - and it should certainly give commercial broadcasters
forecasting a digital nirvana something to think about. Futurescope’s
message for advertisers is clear: TV ads in the future need to be more
distinctive, relevant and involving.
Faced with Futurescope’s findings, the message for the media industry is
equally clear: media research must be more distinctive, relevant and
Mills on Business, p25.