Media Perspective: Time to return to the core business of what we actually do

Isn't media planning brilliant? I mean, the job that we do. We get to find really creative ways of spending huge amounts of clients' money to affect millions of people and contribute to popular culture.

We get to see all sorts of businesses from the inside. And we get to mix with splendidly inspiring, smart and funny people in the process.

This was brought into sharp relief last week when I went to the Media Business Course in Brighton. This is the 44th year the course has been run by the Advertising Association, and it is still one of the best things that young people coming into our business can do to learn how to construct and make a media pitch. It is elegantly conceived and flawlessly run. More than 100 bright youngsters cram their heads with stuff, their brains with experiences, and their tummies with cheap alcohol ... and it works.

But when I looked around the room, I wondered whom this course was really working for. Of the 109 delegates, 76 per cent were from media owners. Surely the media agencies should be a little better represented? And what about those creative agencies that keep talking about their desire to understand the wider media context?

This disregard from those running our media agencies irked me. What were they doing for their young people? Then I stopped and thought about it. The youngsters from the media planning world are going on courses about advertising, brands and strategy. The IPA told me the number of media people they serve has doubled since 2001, and that media folk accounted for 62 per cent of those on their professional development courses this year. Meanwhile, ad agency people are going on mini-MBAs, and, presumably, the business people are going on yoga retreats.

We are all shifting up a level - like musical chairs but on a grander scale. But is it wise? It makes sense for the media owners who send their rising stars to Brighton each year. They are building a talent base that understands how to find insights into client problems and provide solutions direct. In the same way that, maybe, the media agencies will soon be providing "Total Creative Solutions" for clients.

But where it will end? Cats learning to bark; penguins learning to dance; men learning to multi-task; and lawyers learning to behave like human beings?

I think it is time to get back to our core businesses. It is all well and good expanding our capabilities, but you have to expand from a foundation of substance, and that substance should be brilliance in the thing you are paid to do.

So come on, media chiefs, get your young people back on to the 45th year of the Media Business Course and keep up the level of genius in our side of the industry.

- Ivan Pollard is a partner at Naked Communications

- Ian Darby is away.


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