I bring good news. This is my last column in this particular slot
because, as from the new year, I move on to fresh pastures.
I say ’good news’ because, after nearly seven years of weekly toil, I
for one am looking forward to doing something different. (I hope it’s
good news for the readers too, but not so good that I don’t get a few
letters of protest.) But after close on 330 columns there’s a danger
that you begin to repeat yourself you begin to repeat yourself. This is
not always because of a lack of imagination on my part (OK, sometimes,
maybe) but simply because the same stories and the same issues return to
Nonetheless, looking back to the spring of 1991, it is clear that some
things have changed for the better and, I hope, permanently.
For example, when I started, media was low on the agenda - some would
say off the agenda - of all but the practitioners themselves. Now it is
taken extremely seriously by most clients and by agency bosses. As a
result, media is no longer perceived, in Derrick Southon’s memorable
phrase, as ’one step up from the mail room’. Why, I’ve even heard one or
two creative directors admit they find media quite interesting.
Moreover, the quality of talent entering the business is higher than
ever and will continue to rise as more agencies realise its importance.
I still remember the furore in 1992 when the IPA, then dominated by the
so-called creative agencies, ran a showpiece conference on the
importance of advertising but completely forgot to invite any media
agencies to speak. It wouldn’t happen today. Indeed, such has been the
shift in power that in a few years’ time it could even happen the other
Second, nobody questions the legitimacy of media independents and
dependants anymore. Back in 1991, full service was the thing and
everybody else was, well, below the salt. These days, the only thing
that matters is whether you’re any good, not the colour of your
Third, in the early 90s it was accepted wisdom (all right, it was a line
that I peddled) that media buyers could not be both brainy and
Looking back it seems ridiculous, but then PHD was tiny and the idea of
planning didn’t feature in the vocabulary of the likes of Zenith, TMD
Indeed - and since this is a cause close to my heart and which Campaign
has championed - it is quite remarkable how the industry as a whole has
bought into the notion that communications planning (in the macro sense
of the word) is the way forward in a multi-media, confusing and complex
As to the future, the best way I can describe it is to say that, if we
are in the post-industrial economy now, then tomorrow we will be in the
media economy. It may well be a tough environment for media operators,
but it will also be one where talent and innovation can flourish.