Media sales is an unlikely route into a creative agency

Having embedded people on the ground seems to be in vogue at the moment, so it was no great surprise to learn that another creative agency had employed someone from media to run an in-house operation, writes Jeremy Lee.

After all, the agency concerned -- Soul -- is one of the early setters of a well-documented trend that has also seen Derek Morris jump ship from Unity and join Publicis, and Naked's announcement that it was linking up with Clemmow Hornby Inge.

But what is surprising about Soul's latest media move is the background of the person involved. Mark Swift, Soul's new media wonder boy, is joining from the media sales side of the industry.

The media sales function has never sat comfortably at the top table of advertising. Indeed, if such a feast was ever held then it would likely be the media boys who helped serve up the food, empty the cigar ash from the ashtrays and use their expense accounts to pick up the tab. And that's only if they knew how to use the knife and fork properly and promised not to behave like vulgar little oiks.

Although he has spent time at an agency, Swift has spent a large part of his life selling media space, having worked both at Five and more recently at Virgin Radio as its sales director.

The brief that he has been given at Soul is to build partnerships with media owners on behalf of the agency's current and prospective clients. It seems that Swift (who, in the manner of media sales people everywhere, was more probably known by former colleagues as Swifty) will use his skills and experience to offer advice on fragmenting audiences in a consolidating media market and will be in charge of its media offering, Soul Space.

So what can a creative agency get from a media sales person that can't be had from a counterpart at a media agency? In reality, probably very little apart from a firm handshake and someone with an ability to laugh at other people's jokes. Given the nature of the two jobs - trading media and creating ads - their skills set are likely to be similar and this could be just another example of cross-fertilisation in the industry and an attempt by an agency to differentiate itself from its competitors.

But perhaps one of the key differences between the two must be availability. For example, compare the number of media agency people who have decided to leave their job to set up a consultancy with those who have left the media sales arena over the past year.

While it would be astonishing to find out, for instance, that Carlton's Steve Platt had landed a job at Mother or that Channel 4's Andy Barnes was off to TBWA, this must surely offer hope to those legions of media sales people who, when the various sales mergers go through, find themselves without a cost per thousand to sell.

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