What’s in a name? Probably a lot more than Bill Bard would have us
believe - and there were some very severe criticisms, not least in this
magazine, of WPP’s decision to light on MindShare as the tag for its
group media operation. Some thought it too ’tree-hugging’, too
California think-tank; others read even more sinister connotations (or
should that be second-order semiological signification?) of brainwashing
and Moonie-like cultism into it.
Many Pooler, the managing director of MindShare UK, will be getting sick
of this sort of thing. She will recall only too well the howls of
derision that greeted the relaunch of O&M Media as the Network; but that
wasn’t as bad as the sniggers that Jim Marshall, chief executive of
MediaVest, has suffered in recent months. Yet it has stung MediaVest
into producing the best in-house ad the media sector has seen.
Do names really matter? Are they important in differentiating media
companies as brands? Media specialists have a different history to the
rest of the industry when it comes to names. Almost without fail,
full-service agencies had the owners’ names, or their initials, above
the door. That’s not just to do with monumental ego problems: the
personalities of the principals were usually the main - or only - brand
values an agency had to offer.
Granted, Chris Ingram & Associates was one of the first media
independents - now CIA, of course - but generic names were big even in
the early days of the media sector. The Media Department became TMD and
then TMD Carat.
Until recently, everyone was a Media Whatsits of some form or another -
including, eventually, CIA MediaWhatsits.
But media’s equivalent of music’s ’concept album’ phase has been
creeping up on us for many years. This is largely to do with the fact
that media dependants are spin-offs of agency media departments and are
still agency owned, so putting the media director’s name above the door
is not really appropriate.
Thus the road that began with Carat (as in gold standard) led to
Initiative (as in gumption), Zenith (as in ’we’re the biggest in the
business’) and inexorably to Share of Mind. Is that better or worse than
The Advertising Agency Register now has a media specialist service. The
AAR managing director, Martin Jones, says that media companies don’t
have a great track record when it comes to differentiating themselves.
’They are getting better but clients know little about agencies. The
most successful media agencies are the ones that can be summed up in a
few words and the name is a good starting point but, in the end, the
performance of the company is paramount.’
David Abraham, the marketing director of St Luke’s, knows a thing or two
about names. Many in the industry thought St Luke’s was a dreadful name
when it was chosen a couple of years ago. It seems to have worked out.
He says: ’We spend all our time thinking about developing brands - our
vision was to do the same to ourselves and look at our company as a
business-to-business brand. Media companies should move away from those
generic names that no-one can distinguish.’
Mark Cranmer, the managing director of Motive Communications, says: ’We
are witnessing the birth of a new industry. As people bring media out of
the restrictive box it’s inhabited in the past, they tend not to want
the word ’media’ in the company title. I think MindShare is excellent.
The business these days is about just that - ensuring a share of mind -
and it will help the two WPP cultures - the Network and JWT - to come
together with a clear view of what their objective is.’