Alasdair Reid argues that Initiative Media is right to plan for greater
Mainstream agencies were probably perplexed by Initiative Media’s
decision (Campaign, 26 January) to set up a creative department. What is
Initiative trying to do? Re-invent the full-service agency?
But creative agencies can relax. Initiative’s new offshoot should, in
truth, be called the ‘creative thinking’ department - its function being
to look at new media opportunities. And Initiative is not even the first
to do this - the CIA Group set up a similar unit a couple of years ago.
The new department will develop commercial ideas for clients, working
with media owners - everything from tailor-made TV programming and
sponsorship, to print advertorials and promotions. And it will serve as
a think-tank for the whole company.
On the face of it, the move seems sensible. But hang on. Creative
thinking - isn’t that what media specialists are paid for anyway?
The new operation will be headed up by Initiative’s managing director,
Tony Manwaring, who argues that the media environment is changing so
rapidly that you need to be on the case the whole time to spot the real
Initiative has vowed that it will not be treading on the toes of
creative agencies. This venture is all about providing new media ideas
for creatives to work with. It’s about formalising the strategic process
behind media innovation.
‘Of course, all our people think laterally,’ Manwaring says. ‘But there
is so much pressure on media people that they often find solutions in
the quickest way they know. Also, because change is coming so quickly
these days, it is possible to become blind to the possibilities. We’re
moving from four TV channels to 55 in a matter of years. The potential
there alone is incredible.
‘New media have to be more flexible and imaginative in the way they
allow their medium to be used. We need to have a focus on what’s
happening in the media environment, as well as a focus on our clients’
brands. It then becomes a matter of marrying up the two,’ Manwaring
But what do the media owners think? Don’t they have sales people
dedicated to creating new opportunities. Is Initiative in danger of
encroaching on their territory? Jerry Hill, the managing director of
TSMS, welcomes Initiative’s latest venture.
‘Increasingly, there’s evidence that unconventional opportunities are
slipping through the net because they don’t fall within conventional
structures or reporting lines,’ he admits. ‘Sometimes, someone needs to
pick up an idea and run with it. If there is a new idea that brings
together a whole spectrum of activities, it’s often not clear whose
responsibility it is to knit the whole thing together.’
Hill points to recent experiences in the area of broadcast sponsorship.
In the early days, there was a gap between what was possible and the
ability of advertisers to exploit those possibilities. Agencies and
media specialists are now up to speed, but the process might have been
eased if more lateral thinkers had been around from the onset.
‘It may well be that agencies are formalising a process that has already
been happening,’ Hill adds. ‘But that has to be positive. There are lots
of areas, such as merchandising and database marketing tie-ups with
programmes, that perhaps people should be exploring. Maybe all it needs
is for someone to sit there and pull all the strands together.’