I must confess that my first reaction on hearing the news
(Campaign, last week) that CIA Medianetwork UK was preparing to cull 30
low-spending clients was one of astonishment. Are they mad, I wondered?
What happens when those tiny acorns grow into mighty oaks?
My second, on checking on CIA’s entry in the October edition of Brad,
was this: they haven’t gone far enough. Running into five columns, CIA
painstakingly lists more than 200 clients (possibly more, I got bored
counting) right down to Hofels Pure Foods, Francotype Postalia and Kreig
and Zivy Ltd (who they? - Ed). In fact, CIA confirms one of my pet
theories, which is that there’s an inverse relationship between the
length of a media buyer’s client list in Brad and its confidence/status.
Its pure chest-thumping: the ones with the longest entries proportional
to their billings are the ones you’ve never heard of (viz the Media Shop
on page 243-44 of the October edition).
My third feeling was one of admiration for CIA. Good on them, I thought,
for having the courage to turn away unprofitable business. As a
statement that CIA knows what it is and is comfortable with it, this
move takes some beating.
Nonetheless, CIA’s action has a bearing on two of the more important
debates surrounding media buying. The first is the notion that media
buyers have either got to be big, or they’ve got to get out because, in
the future, there’ll only be room for ten of them. Nonsense. Clearly, if
the likes of CIA cannot handle small accounts, then the smaller players
will. Step forward Booth Lockett Makin, Total Media et al.
The second issue is that of providing value-added media services, and
the importance of decent media planning and a coherent media strategy.
This is a cause which Campaign has long espoused and one that most, if
not all media buying shops, pay lip service to. Moreover, it is
certainly the driving force behind the rise of companies such as Unity,
Michaelides & Bednash, New PHD and Manning Gottlieb. But, explaining the
decision to drop these clients, CIA’s chief executive, Mike Elms, hinted
that not everybody wanted these lovely ’extras’. Shock horror!
Could it be that, all the honeyed words of media luminaries
notwithstanding, some clients don’t give a monkey’s about all that and
only want a good old-fashioned media buying service?
This may be so. I have met many a cynic (they call themselves realists)
who believes that Unity and M&B will never succeed simply because
clients will only pay for planning if you lump it in with the buying.
This seems depressing, but the Unity win last week (Bulmer) and M&B’s
recent successes suggest that things are changing, albeit slowly. The
irony, of course, is that the clients that most need a distinctive media
strategy (the ones with the small budgets) are those least prepared to
pay for it.