There's a parallel with what's going on in the media buying world. It's a trend that's been
underway for some years, but the disappearance of CIA into the stodgy, indefinable but undeniably large behemoth of Global Media Edge underlines it.
"Yes sir," the new-business director cries enthusiastically. "I think you'll find that we've got just the thing to suit you. It's our new marvellous one-size-fits-all proposition." "What size is that?" the client marketing director asks, looking for a home for a £5 million to £10 million media account. "It's our new, super-duper XXL size," the media buyer says. "Er, right, I'll get back to you," the client says, hastily replacing the receiver.
Now, in an age of consolidation, XXL may suit the agenda of the giant holding companies who love willy waving, but it doesn't necessarily suit the client. Let's leave to one side the murky question of clients being shoehorned into agency deals to make up the numbers. The simple truth is that, if you're a £5 million client in a £500 million to £750 million buying operation, you don't necessarily command the attention and effort you might want. The smaller your spend, the more disproportionate the effort you want from your media buyer, but the less likely you are to get it.
But where do you think your average £5 million
account resides in order of size in some of the biggest media buyers? I'll tell you; go down the client list of one media buyer and the £5 million account is 24th; go down another and it's 45th. I'm sure you get the drift.
Fortunately, in this country at least, there is still some choice if you don't want to be near the bottom of some media buyers' priority lists - mid-sized independents such as Walker Media, BLM, which took the unusual step last week of releasing its consolidated p&l figures to journalists, good old Ayling (the Mr Kipling of media buying), Total and the like are all surviving. In fact, judging by their MMS figures, they're flourishing.
Talking of MMS figures, the BLM p&l figures tell
an interesting story. Sales (ie billings) rose a marginal
4 per cent or so in financial year 2001 over 2000, yet
income as a percentage of sales rose from 8.7 per cent to 12.15 per cent - an increase of just less than 50 per cent. How come? Well, BLM is offering higher-margin consultancy, new-media and creative work - something unheard of for a so-called mid-sized media buyer.
What does this tell me? First, the XXL media offering doesn't suit everyone. Second, there's life, not the predicted slow death, in the much-derided middle ground.
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