MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Why 2000 was not a vintage year for the media players

Right then boys and girls, attention please. Quiet at the back.

Right then boys and girls, attention please. Quiet at the back.

Duff, leave your trouser pockets alone boy; Cranmer, whatever it is you've got there, spit it out now; Craze, will you stop pulling Grant's hair.

This isn't going to be pleasant and it isn't going to be fun, so let's all settle down and get through it as quickly as possible.

Yes, 'tis the season of goodwill to all men (even auditors and bastard clients) and, believe me, this end of year report hurts me as much as it hurts you. But as we look back over the past 12 months, it's time to face facts. 2000 has not been a vintage year for the media industry.

Take overall performance. Lacklustre. After such a fine start to the whole project of taking media to the heart of an advertiser's business, it seems standards have slipped a little this year.

Some of you have worked hard towards a more rounded, strategic offering, and Starcom Motive, Optimedia and OMD were among those whose sterling efforts were rewarded at the annual prize-giving last month. But many of this year's 'achievements' have been less about great thinking and more about cheap prices.

When blinkered advertisers place cost efficiencies before (and sometimes instead of) investment in smart thinking, of course that's a challenge.

Many client marketing departments have increasingly abdicated responsibility for their media decisions: to auditors, to purchasing departments or to a system that only truly values the end part of the process - delivery of performance. The contribution that media can make at the brand planning stage is still often seen as interesting added-value that goes largely unpaid for, or as peripheral to the core media service.

Sadly, much new-business activity this year has served to confirm, rather than challenge, this approach to media, and agencies themselves must take their share of responsibility for this. Then, too, the whole industry is the poorer for the fact that agencies are still cutting each other's throats to win business, cutting their own throats by underwriting guaranteed prices and snaffling staff at vastly inflated salaries; such debilitating practices have become staples of media life.

But all is not doom and gloom, boys and girls. As we look back on 2000, there have been some positive moves forward. The multinational groups are slowly coming to recognise the importance of media in their offering and are investing in their media networks; BMW and Renault have proved that there is a way around client conflict; the Americans have proved how sophisticated the UK is, and True North's purchase of MBS has proved that where there's, erm, limited choice, there's brass. All to play for next year, then, folks. Merry Christmas.



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