Media Perspective: Rivals beginning to reap the rewards of MindShare's vision

Last week, the WPP network MindShare continued its tenth anniversary celebrations with a bash at London's Hippodrome club.

Its global chief executive, Dominic Proctor, led the festivities as staff enjoyed an apparently riotous night, complete with entertainment from the comedy act The Cuban Brothers.

A slightly more light-hearted event, perhaps, than MindShare's annual conference, held in October in China. An appropriate place during its anniversary year given that MindShare was born, not in the UK or the US, but in Asia, as Sir Martin Sorrell and his team recognised the huge growth potential there.

MindShare, which brought together the media departments of JWT and Ogilvy & Mather in a not altogether easy alliance, has certainly proved to be a success, with WPP's hunch that it could offer a bundled range of specialist media services to clients paying off.

Proctor has been there since the start and deserves plaudits for leading the network in a professional and human manner. It may have had a difficult time this year in new-business terms (losing Fox in the US and the international Samsung and Mattel accounts), but it deserves praise for investing heavily in planning, content and other entertainment services.

As part of Group M, it may not be totally guilt-free of participating in the ridiculous, close to zero-sum new-business game that continues to dominate the industry (Group M is currently engaged in what sounds like a lowest-offer-wins Dutch auction against Publicis for the BT media account). Yet, at least its bells and whistles are in good shape, too.

Which is more than can be said for certain rivals. Some, however, are now seeing the opportunity to pitch themselves in a more planning-led, cerebral space. PHD, under its recently installed chief executive, Mike Cooper, is one network with such ambitions, and it will be interesting to see if it can make a go of this.

It may be tough for a network so far lacking resource and talent at the centre, but once it's in shape, it may provide an alternative. And there are signs that its UK offering is twitching back into life. Its recently launched New Tube approach, a souped-up media lab that will see planners experience all sorts of media technology (from social networking sites to in-game advertising) before working more closely with the content division Drum, is certainly impressive.

It's refreshing to see a business locating ideas rather than a channel at the centre of its business and it provides an indication as to where media agencies are progressing - attempting to introduce content ideas at the start of the planning process. An endorsement, if one were ever needed from a competitor, of MindShare's original vision.


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