For anyone whose horizons stretch no further than the London
suburbs, the name CIA Medianetwork has been associated in recent years
with shady trading problems, crippling account losses, senior management
fallout and general disarray.
So last week’s annual results from CIA’s parent company, Tempus, may
have come as a surprise. Tempus posted profits up 40 per cent to pounds
13.2 million, has clawed its way into the top six media operations in
every major European market and has established footholds in the US and
Asia Pacific. As an international operation, Tempus is doing quite
nicely, thank you.
Not bad for home-grown talent. There aren’t many powerful British media
agencies on the global media stage, even though the UK boasts one of the
most sophisticated and experienced media industries.
Consider, though, the assumption that there will be only five or six
global media players within the next few years, and Tempus’s survival in
its current form seems unlikely. Tempus ain’t going to conquer the world
on its own and a strong presence in the US will be crucial if CIA is to
tempt European clients over the water.
So it’s not surprising that Tempus has been courting and courted by many
of the US communications groups, keen to match a US powerbase with a
strong and well-managed European network. Fair enough. But Tempus has
one asset beyond its existing network which the Americans would do well
to consider carefully: its international management expertise -
something many other networks are struggling to build.
Every week I hear gripes from UK media agencies frustrated by their US
paymasters. There seems to be genuine concern about quite how
well-equipped the Americans are to drive global media propositions.
According to my contacts, there’s a lack of understanding of the media
pressures facing Europe and little sense of urgency. All too often the
chest-puffing global launches of networks such as MediaVest, StarCom,
OMD, MindShare and Optimedia are little more than statements of intent.
Months, even years, after the official launch, there’s little to show
for some of these networks beyond a new letterhead, frustration,
bitterness and a growing sense of despair. And if you think that’s a bit
strong, you probably don’t work in media.
Of course, coherent, co-operative and well-organised global propositions
don’t materialise overnight. But for many UK agencies, the slow progress
and the ignorance of some US companies about the business of media in
Europe is becoming a real issue.
Tempus may be struggling in its UK homeland, but it has a genuine media
heritage, knows how to run a successful international media operation
and has real commitment to the industry. Not many of its rivals can
claim as much.