The impact of the low-inflation era hit me last Friday morning as I
waited expectantly for a bacon sandwich at a local cafe. I was promised
fresh door-steps of white bread, as much brown sauce as I wanted, a free
read of the Daily Mail and a cup of tea - and all for pounds 1.75. Now
what more could a girl want?
Well, what a girl could want is a sandwich that delivers. One that is
stacked full of best Danish, oozes tastily all over your fingers and is
so filling that you don’t need lunch. While I would have happily paid
more to secure such a treat, the cafe owner has to operate in a
competitive market and would lose most of his customers to McDonald’s if
he were to put his prices up.
The low-inflation era is not as good for consumers as one would
Price as king necessarily leads to forced economies. It results in a
reduction of product quality, limited resources available for investment
in new product development and a lack of investment in staff training,
leading to reduced customer service.
Nowhere is this more evident in our business than in media planning and
buying. The independent industry was founded on a proposition of reduced
price and lower service costs. The net result almost 20 years later is
that media is largely reduced to a commodity buy and vast amounts of
business change hands purely on promises of higher discounts and lower
Consequently, media independents are working on reduced margins while
clients have got used to media being judged purely on how much it
While the industry itself can be held responsible for creating this
situation, it is in no-one’s interests to see it continue. Agency groups
like WPP and Omnicom must reconsider the role of media within their
Now that most of the ’independents’ are actually under their control, it
is time to re-evaluate their importance creatively and financially.
Media independents must stop the madness of taking on business at prices
which do not allow them to service the account properly, let alone make
a profit. Clients must be given sufficient reason to re-evaluate the
price-value equation of media.
Higher quality media means better strategic thinking and more creative,
brand-focused media solutions. In the race for reduced media costs
everyone seems to have overlooked the fact that a good way to save money
would be to have more impactful media solutions that achieve greater
standout and therefore need to run less often.
Examples of these were the campaigns that won the first media lions at
Cannes. It is no coincidence, I think, that all three UK winners,
Ammirati Puris Lintas, McCanns Manchester and BJK&E are, in truth, the
in-house media departments of full-service agencies (however they style
I hope next year that we will see more media ’independents’ collecting
their lions. To me this will signify increased investment in the media
function and greater understanding of the contribution it makes to
successful communications campaigns.
Rhona Tridgell is a media recruitment consultant at Kendall Tarrant.