NEWS ANALYSIS: Should media agencies add PR to their communications mix? Media Edge thinks the time is ripe to broaden its client services

One day, after shooting the breeze about doglegs and gatefolds, your planner/buyer contact will ask if you have any PR ideas, direct marketing plans or whether you fancy taking part in a sponsorship deal.

One day, after shooting the breeze about doglegs and gatefolds,

your planner/buyer contact will ask if you have any PR ideas, direct

marketing plans or whether you fancy taking part in a sponsorship

deal.



At least that’s what Martin Thomas, a director at The Media Edge,

thinks.



Thomas, the former joint managing director of PR company Cohn & Wolfe,

wants to train the global media shop’s entire workforce of 3,000 to

think beyond spots and space.



He reckons it will take two years to transform The Media Edge into a

’total communications business’, where staff are as conversant in PR as

their native media.



With his band of ex-creative planners and marketers, he is touring The

Media Edge’s offices under the name of TME 360, teaching agency folk

about other disciplines.



Thomas predicts ’total communications’ will account for half the

agency’s revenue - up from 15 per cent - in just two years. He believes

agencies are best placed to embrace communications because of their

accountability.



The Media Edge is looking beyond straight media for two major

reasons.



The first is what Thomas calls ’the death of advertising’ in the face of

media fragmentation, inflation and clutter.



Thomas believes the old premise that advertising should get 70 per cent

of the budget is old hat. ’Events that attract huge TV audiences, like

the Superbowl, are now beyond the financial reach of most companies,’ he

explains.



Secondly, Thomas believes planner/buyers need to become all-rounders to

tackle the new breed of AOL/Time Warner-style media giants that offer a

plethora of ad opportunities, from online space to product placement in

films.



’Buyers must have expertise in dealing with media owners across a number

of areas,’ explains Thomas, ’because that’s the way the marketing is

going.’



Michaelides & Bednash has been offering clients a version of total

communications for six years. The agency, which bills itself as a

communications company, houses staff with creative, media and research

backgrounds.



’We create a brand strategy followed by a communications strategy for

the client,’ says managing partner Graham Bednash. ’It can be a PR,

advertising or direct idea. Talking about above and below the line is

the wrong way to do it.’



He concludes: ’It’s no good for owners just to know about outdoor or TV

as clients will be asking about the entire brand. They’ve got to sell

ideas rather than units.’



Both Bednash and Thomas know not everyone is ready for them. ’Some

clients are cynical about the idea,’ admits Thomas. ’We’re not for the

traditional media owner that has one product to sell.’



But even a straight media player like Total Media can spot the

trend.



’Fifteen years ago it was rare to offer anything but pure planning and

buying,’ says joint managing director Guy Sellers. ’Now an increasing

number of agencies, including us, are thinking of offering a gamut of

services.’



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