PERSPECTIVE: Creative agencies struggle to accept the value of media

It was refreshing to hear Rupert Howell talk about media in his inaugural speech as the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s incoming president.

It was refreshing to hear Rupert Howell talk about media in his

inaugural speech as the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s

incoming president.

Refreshing because although the IPA has been welcoming media agencies

into its embrace for years, there’s still sometimes a sense that media

is ring-fenced. No creative agency person has any role on the media

policy group and there’s little sense of dialogue between the media and

creative agency members.

Howell is right to highlight the problems of an advertising industry

where media and creative each has little experience of the other’s


As memories of the full-service agency grow dimmer, Howell says: ’There

is a generation of media people growing up who have never directly

experienced the process of producing a good creative idea.’

Well, in my experience, having media on your business card doesn’t imply

a creative lobotomy, but I think I know what Howell means - seeing at

close hand a piece of creative work develop from conception through to

execution is beyond the experience of most of today’s young media


There is a new generation of planners and creatives ’whose only

experience of media is their own consumption of it,’ to quote Howell


Creating advertising for interactive TV or niche TV channels, deciding

to switch adspend from, say, press to PR or TV to posters, advising

clients on advertiser-supplied programming or sports and broadcast

sponsorship all require a real understanding of media alternatives,

media consumption and a regular dialogue with media owners.

So it’s hardly surprising that more and more clients are turning to

their media companies to be their partners in the communications

process. Such relationships are the progeny of an increasingly

complicated media scene, but also reflect the growing sophistication of

media companies across a broader range of communications solutions.

But many creative folk I meet still don’t get it. They labour under the

illusion that the demise of the full-service agency simply means the

removal of an office full of loudmouths in bad suits who trade media as

a commodity.

I can’t quite work out whether it’s bravura, disingenuousness or sheer

ignorance, but many still believe that losing their grip on media poses

no threat to their long-term future. Creative agencies continue to play

down the importance of media at their peril and Howell’s comments ought

to send shivers down the spine.

The IPA is proposing to use training and job swapping to help bridge the

media/creative gap - not a bad idea, if somewhat overdue. But if bridges

are to be built, creative agencies need to understand that the flow of

traffic has changed.

Media agencies are increasingly driving the advertising process.


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