PERSPECTIVE: It’s time for media buyers to vocalise their contribution

A couple of weeks ago, a dinky little A5 booklet landed on my desk.

A couple of weeks ago, a dinky little A5 booklet landed on my


Called Great Media Ideas, it detailed a number of case histories in

which media creativity had been central to the campaign - among them

Stena, the Ministry of Sound and Jaguar.

Yes, you’ve guessed. It was, in effect, an ad for J. Walter Thompson’s

media department and gosh, yes, I was surprised - and impressed - by

some of the things they’d done.

Nonetheless, it made me think. For years JWT has insisted that its media

department was a lot better than many people gave it credit for (I must

confess to being one of the sceptics myself).

Yet only now has it got around to demonstrating this, which is a bit

curious given that JWT’s boss, the charming Dominic Proctor, used to run

its media department.

In fact, for JWT you could read almost any other media department,

whether full service, dependant or independent.

Why is it, then, that media people are so reluctant, compared with their

creative brethren, to sing their own praises? Is it a built-in

inferiority complex, the result of years of being regarded as the

second-class citizens in the basement?

Don’t laugh: it might just be. Last week, the head of a top ten media

buying outfit - a person who could easily moonlight as an assertiveness

trainer - admitted to me that the prospect of being on a creative awards

panel had reduced them to a blue funk. Ten years ago, I could have

understood, if not sympathised, with such an attitude. Not today though.

And yet this strange reluctance among media people to stand up and take

the credit for their contribution continues to inhibit them.

I find it curious. In this day and age, more than ever, the media

strategy is as crucial, if not more so, than the creative execution. It

doesn’t matter how good the ad is, if it isn’t seen by the right people

in the right context, it’s a waste of money.

If not universally accepted yet among creatives, this principle is

certainly recognised by other interest groups in the advertising process

and certainly by more clients.

Five years ago, Campaign ran a feature highlighting this principle. It

was called ’Where Media Made the Difference’ and was about great

campaigns that were defined by their choice and use of media: Guinness,

the Economist, Nissan Micra and Boddingtons.

Today we could run that same feature and the list would be longer and

more varied. Let’s see: Wonderbra, Triumph (sorry, bras again), Umbro,

Colgate, Seat, Lynx, Doritos, Mercedes, Club 18-30 - and those are just

the ones that spring to mind immediately. I’m sure you could think of

plenty more.

But do we ever hear publicly about the role of the media department in

these and other campaigns? Do we hell. It’s time more of them copied

JWT. If they don’t stand up for themselves, nobody else will.