Stability works for MediaCom; others need to take risks

LONDON - MediaCom's pitch success is in danger of reaching the same high frequency as the delivery of a "Faria Special" (administered nightly to certain bigwigs in the Football Association, apparently).

But while the antics of the former FA PA may leave a bad taste in the mouth, MediaCom's capture of the £43 million Sky account will have only a positive impact on the agency - catapulting it back to the top of the Campaign Media Performance League.

And it sounds as if the agency landed the business without dropping its pants. Some might say that Mind-Share fluffed a chance to fire into an open goal given the rumoured favour shown by Sky towards it, but Media-Com, as is becoming usual, was in the right place at the right time with a strong proposition.

Regardless of the merits of this particular pitch, MediaCom is undoubtedly the most consistent new-business performer of recent years (second in 2003 on £61 million billings gained, first in 2002 on £72 million gained and second in 2001 on £57.7 million gained). More importantly, its client retention rate is high.

Factors usually cited for this success include its supposed relentless focus on client service and stability in its senior line-up (with the exception of the depar ture of its chairman, Allan Rich) dating back to the creation of "modern MediaCom" after it merged with TMB in 1999.

But the startling thing is this stability hasn't worked for everybody, not least most of its rivals. Many have found stability can soon become sterility and have taken chances with some imaginative management hirings.

Aegis replaced Mark Craze with Nigel Sharrocks, MindShare turned to its Asian network and Kelly Clark to take it forward in the UK,while ZenithOptimedia eschewed its UK management for the chief executive role in favour of Antony Young,a Kiwi based in Hong Kong.

ZenithOptimedia, in particular, had a tough turnaround job to do because its senior management was so dominated by TV traders before Young's arrival.It now has a more balanced senior team - planners including Derek Morris and Lucy Banks have joined Gerry Boyle to complement its buying talent.

Even more positively, OMD Group is an example of the "let's fix it even though it ain't broke" mentality. Nick Manning's zeal in 2003 in launching new companies and restructuring Manning Gottlieb when it would have been tempting to sit back and enjoy the fruits of a record new-business year in 2002 is worthy of note, as is the group restructure carried out since.

MediaCom's stability has worked for it because of the calibre and variety of its top talent but it is impossible to copy and its rivals should respond to its new-business pre-eminence by taking risks even when they're flying.

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