Arif Durrani, head of media, Campaign / editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media, Campaign / editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

Nothing stands still for very long in the dynamic media

Some people hate change but, if you're reading this, I suspect you're not one of them.

The media business is driven by a restlessness and dynamism that makes for great company, big ideas and impatient meetings. 

Embracing change really is the only option. During the past three years alone, half the top media agencies have undergone overhauls to their leadership teams, including new chief executives at Carat (now part of Dentsu Aegis Network), Havas Media, MEC, Mindshare, Starcom Mediavest Group and ZenithOptimedia.

The trend is just as pronounced among the biggest media owners, with the past 12 months bringing new commercial leaders across a range of companies, from ITV and the Daily Mail to Channel 5, Clear Channel, News UK and Yahoo. The commercial media business really is no place to get too comfortable.

Andy Hart, Microsoft’s European leader, became the latest casualty last week, following AOL’s takeover of the company’s ad sales. It was widely assumed that the former Daily Mail executive had received one of those golden goodbyes many secretly long for, but I understand he walked away.

'Change really can be the watchword of progression'

For someone at the top of his game – and who likes to keep his teeth (and jeans) so white – I can’t imagine him being in the wilderness for long. I suspect Hart already has his next move lined up – probably global in scope and possibly somewhere that utilises his publishing and digital expertise.

Amid such movement, the most recent IPA Agency Census also reminds us that the average age at media agencies is a mere 31.6 years old and that only 12.9 per cent of employees are older than 40. 

Such a young workforce is great for staying on-trend, but does bring its own problems. With an ageing population looking at working until 70 and beyond, where do people in media go for the second (longer) part of their careers?

At an agency roadshow held earlier this year by Trinity Mirror, led by our favourite Peter Pan of media, James Wildman, another industry challenge was highlighted. By merging industry data with government statistics, the publisher laid bare a striking reality for today’s planners and buyers: most graduate executives will be earning more than the average national income of an entire household within four years. It’s a timely reminder that, for a business based on its ability to connect with people, empathy remains a key requisite; chasing the next big thing is not always the answer.

But, as Hart would be the first to acknowledge, change really can be the watchword of progression. And with each new chapter comes exciting opportunities all round.