PERSPECTIVE: Signing off saying some things have actually improved

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 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

haunt us.

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

way round.

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

and Carat.

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.


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