As anyone who hasn’t been living on Mars recently can tell you, the
big network agency world has suddenly gone media bonkers. First we have
Martin Sorrell grabbing every platform going to give us his view of the
world (and putting his tanks on Chris Ingram’s lawn while he’s at it).
Now we have Omnicom (Campaign, last week) trying to stitch up the mother
of all deals involving BMP, New PHD and Manning Gottlieb.
On the sidelines, but in warming-up mode, sits Interpublic with a
three-card pack consisting of McCann/Universal, Western and Initiative
that it must shuffle. Yet to make their move - you can bet they won’t
sit idly by - are the likes of Leo Burnett, Young & Rubicam, Euro RSCG
Then there is Zenith, the great imponderable, which will surely end up
as part of somebody’s empire. Nobody, but nobody, will want to be left
without a partner at the Media Summer Ball.
So, one way or another, it’s going to be a fun time for all, except
probably for the staff and the clients whose fates will be decided in
some smoke-filled room as part of a ’deal’.
If, dear reader, you detect a touch of cynicism, you’re right. For many
of the big global agencies, one suspects, media has become just another
bandwagon to jump on, another hook with which to fish for clients.
How things change, how swift the Damascene conversion. Even five years
ago, media was still a dirty word at most of the big agency groups.
Sure, they paid lip-service to the idea, but if you talked to anybody
who worked for their media operations, it was pretty obvious that the
big cheeses didn’t really have time for it. Of course, it is true that
people change, different priorities come into play and the world moves
on - although most of the people who ran the agency holding companies
then are still there today - so it may be that they have truly seen the
But it is more pertinent to speculate on how exactly they intend to
build these grand global media operations. To judge from the way some
are going about it, you’d think it was only a question of getting group
agencies to pool their buying, acquiring a specialist to give a veneer
of commitment and giving the whole shooting match a new name like
Genesis or Media Monster.
Then, hey presto, the media owners touch their forelocks and hand out
the discounts. If only.
Students of history know that we’ve been here before. Last time they
were called media clubs - only they weren’t a great success because
everybody spent their whole time arguing with their so-called partners.
This time around, common ownership - the family tie - is supposed to
make all the difference. We shall see. You can’t force people to be part
of the same family and I suspect that the creation of global media buyer
brands will be a damn sight harder and more protracted than anybody