Opinion: Perspective - Mindshare is giving M&B a chance to shine again

Go to the Michaelides & Bednash website and you're asked to choose from three options. Hate risk, love risk, not sure.

If you choose "hate risk", you're directed to a sink with an endlessly dripping tap. Choose "not sure", and you're rewarded with a photograph of M&B's IPA Effectiveness Award: Best New Agency, 2006 (a little tardy for an agency well past its tenth birthday). Choose "love risk", though, and you find out why M&B is a match for Mindshare.

Now, you might think M&B is a strategic media company. They'd say you'd be wrong. The agency trailed a blaze of media thinking behind it when it launched in 1995, igniting a whole new industry sector that burned throughout the 90s.

Like the media buying pioneers a decade before, M&B helped raise the media bar and (unlike the media pioneers a decade before) pushed the media function upstream.

Of course, soon enough - once realisation dawned that media thinking was a new menu option that could drive agency remuneration - everyone was at it, or at least claiming to be at it. Media agencies everywhere reckoned they could strut the intelligent stuff just as well as specialists like M&B and Naked.

Then the creative agencies got interested. So these days, it's creative agencies that are chasing the media high ground and hunting for media strategists to sit alongside the creative process. The problem everyone finds, though, is that there aren't enough good media thinkers to go around. If adland has a talent crisis (and it does), it's acute in the area of great strategic media people.

So that's one obvious reason why Mindshare's snared M&B: it's about locking in recognised, tested and "famous" talent. But actually it seems to be about much more than that. It's about setting a new media agenda. Because M&B really isn't just a strategic media company any more. It's tried to reinvent itself along the way to keep a point of difference, thin though it might be. Choose "love risk" on the M&B website and you'll see that M&B is now "a communications agency creating ideas for a digital world". It's tried to turn the tables by extending into creative territory, claiming to have reinvented the creative team by pairing a (traditional) creative person with a media creative to form a new discipline called "co-creation".

Now I recommend you take a pinch of salt when digesting this thought, but you have to respect the ambition and recognise M&B's credentials for aiming towards it. So the attraction for Mindshare is not, essentially, in M&B's strategic media roots. Instead, Mindshare is buying into M&B's shift towards a pairing of media thinking with creative sensibility, which is exactly the territory Mindshare itself is chasing.

Media agencies know that buying is a zero sum game, and that media strategy is now being fought over by creative agencies too. So Mindshare is eyeing the new, digital creative territories as the next big opportunity: media-led creativity. The M&B team will now join Mindshare's Invention division, working on digital content, programming, sponsorship and planning.

No doubt M&B would have rather sold for millions in the sort of high-profile, lucrative deal that their reputation at one time might have justified. And you could argue that the Mindshare tie-up is a final admission that the M&B flame has little heat left. Certainly the agency has not driven home its media/creative idea.

But if M&B has failed to realise the potential of its co-creation proposition, Mindshare will afford it a first- class client list and the necessary investment to really push it forward. The Michaelides & Bednash brand will now disappear, but the team once again has the chance to set an agenda that the wider industry might follow. And with Mindshare as facilitator and protector, risk isn't much of an issue this time round.

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