Media Perspective: Why today's media agencies still have enough to drink to

One of the best books of last year was Duncan Hamilton's well-researched biography of the England cricketer Harold Larwood. Hamilton paints a vivid portrait of Larwood's Nottinghamshire captain Arthur Carr (who was also the England skipper for a time) as a man who embodied the work hard, play hard spirit that was as frowned upon in the UK work culture of the 20s as it is now.

On one memorable occasion, Carr, experiencing a loss of form, decided to drink himself back into playing well. The trick seemed to backfire when he awoke on the morning of a match with a pile-driving headache and double vision. Opting for hair of the dog, Carr then sank three double whisky and sodas before scoring a double century against Essex.

An approach not to be encouraged in most work scenarios. Except, perhaps, in UK media agencies judging from the responses from recent graduates in this week's Double Standards (p19), which suggest that a certain element of Bacchanalia has survived the advance of the procurers and accountants.

While media has moved on from the days when the buying department spent each and every afternoon getting legless in the nearest pub to the agency, there remains a lively and attractive social element to the media industry that is enduringly attractive to new recruits. And a good job too because in return for this, they are expected to work a damn sight harder than Carr ever did.

The other article on this page addresses whether media remains a good place to work and, despite agencies doing themselves no favours with some crazy business practices, and procurement and auditors tightening the screw on them like never before, I'd say they still are. The main hope for media agencies and those that join them is that they become agencies driven by ideas. As I've said before, there are positive signs that this progression is under way (such as MEC being named Company of the Year at last year's IPA Effectiveness Awards).

Popping along to this week's Campaign Media Awards judging session, where there were definitely no whisky and sodas available, the feedback from judges suggested that there are some reasons to be cheerful. Three things I was told: media agencies are becoming better at big, creative ideas; many of the entries made use of bespoke insights and research that moved them up a level and beyond the usual stream of TGI data; and integration has become a given rather than an eye-catching extra.

This all seemed encouraging as media agencies grapple with the issue of what they will look like in five years time. Throw in some fun and games for staff and there's a good chance your agency is moving in the right direction.

ian.darby@haymarket.com

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