Opinion: Perspective - Durden's departure underlines the end of an era

And another one bites the dust. The media agency dust. There's no doubt about it, we're seeing a generational clear-out in media, and the marvellous Jonathan Durden's decision this week to take his talents to a creative agency rips another experienced heart out of the media business.

OK, Durden's not going far, geographically or emotionally (and more about his new job later), but his departure is symptomatic of a sea change in media agency management; the old entrepreneurial media mavericks of the late 80s and early 90s are fast disappearing from the agency scene.

The end of an era is coming. No bad thing, since the communications world is in a major state of flux and media agencies need hunger and utter dedication if they are to rebuild for the future. Been-there-done-that-and-made-a-million chiefs are not necessarily best placed to ride the change.

Mind you, with paths being cleared for a new generation of media management, that's normally a cue to get out the pinky specs and moan about how things ain't what they used to be.

Actually, scanning the span of younger media managers, I'd say there was plenty of talent. But perhaps not quite so much spunk as the departing generation had. Not surprising, really: media agencies a decade or two ago were essentially entrepreneurial businesses. Even the ones that were breakaways from sibling creative agencies felt like owner-managed companies because their management had to fight hard to win their independence.

All of which might explain why media seemed to have more big personalities back then than it does now. Today's media leaders are not encouraged to take risks with the businesses they run. Unlike their predecessors they are local lieutenants reporting into network chiefs overseas, and have little opportunity to create local positionings and personalities for their business. So not much room (or call) for colourful figureheads these days.

As for Durden, one of the very best media thinkers of his generation (or any generation) and one of the few remaining genuine larger-than-life characters on this side of the business, he's a loss to PHD of course. But his role there has mostly been as a figurehead lately (he barely sets foot in the building) and the new management team is well settled and more than capable of continuing its momentum without him.

It would be unthinkable for him to join a rival media player: PHD was his baby and it would be impossible for him to switch emotional allegiance. So, he's not going to be doing media. For Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, which has lacked a bit of spark of late, Durden represents a rejuvenating injection of personality and talent. With his media experience and his interests in TV production and writing, he also brings a fresh perspective to the development of what is still essentially a very traditional agency.

So, though media will be a less interesting place without Durden, at least he's still going to be around in adland for some time yet. Good news for clients, and good news for lovers of bizarre anecdotes everywhere.

Media again: ITV is now officially (as opposed to unofficially) looking for a new commercial chief following the news that Ian McCulloch is quitting the broadcaster after an amazing 27 years.

McCulloch is a decent bloke and you've got to hand it to anyone who has survived through ITV's incredibly messy recent history. And, on my rough calculations, he has done pretty well out of the company in that time.

But whoever succeeds him (Tess Alps? Steve Miron? Andy Barnes? Nick Milligan? Take your pick of fancied names) must put re-engagement with creative agencies (as well as the small matter of improving revenues) at the top of their agenda. The big package and profile come with a very big challenge.

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