What's more useful, a nifty strapline or real media talent?

The other night at a dinner, I saw the chap from "Expect more" chatting to the man from "Fueling brand power" (note the corrupt American spelling) who had just been sharing a joke with the bloke from "People first better results". He had just finished a drink with a woman from the "ROI agency" who had come over after chatting to a boss from the "The pioneering agency".

Roughly translated, this means representatives from Initiative, Starcom, MediaCom, ZenithOptimedia and PHD were in attendance.

And they've all gone strapline mad. Clearly, all media agencies require a strong sense of identity - for the sanity of staff, clients and prospective clients. Mainly, this is because all media buying agencies essentially do the same thing and are desperate to differentiate themselves.

But do they really need these annoying taglines and mission statements?

At the risk of adding to the missiles that will be thrown our way this week (following the publication of Campaign's Top 300 reports), I would say not.

For instance, MindShare, Campaign's Media Agency of the Year, might have a positioning based around its "House of Media" and a strange obsession with purple, but it has coped perfectly well without a neat tidy strapline (though critics might suggest it should adopt the words "bloody lucky", given the amount of network business to come the way of its UK agency recently).

Flipped the other way, some of the agencies with sexy new positionings have failed to ignite enthusiasm among their own staff or potential clients with their new straplines (see our thoughts on this in the Top 300). Some of these positionings are imposed from overseas (Starcom and MediaCom, for instance), but in other cases (PHD and ZenithOpti-media for example) there is no such excuse.

Personally, I'd like to see less emphasis on buzzwords and straplines and more emphasis on the problem-solving personalities that make some agencies great and others less so (admittedly a problem if you work at an agency that lacks talent). Ad agencies aren't shy about this and it would be good if some of this could rub off on the media specialists.

Writing this week, the former ITV marketing director Jim Hytner named some of this talent who are capable of great work (Tess Alps at PHD, Mark Cranmer at Starcom etc). They receive credit (or not) via the trade press, conferences and AAR reels but too often an agency's own marketing neglects the talent that makes it exciting in the first place. This is perhaps a reflection of a world in which tools and fools rule, but the promotion of top media talent is a battle worth fighting. Cue the next press release revealing "a radical and market redefining" agency repositioning.