I recently headed off to the Festival of Media Global in Montreux to listen to a wide range of speakers, network and seek out inspiration.
Whilst there, the guys at CSquared kindly allowed me to sneak a few interviews with some of the speakers and delegates.
First up was Nick Vale. Nick is the global planning boss at the WPP media agency Maxus and owner of a magnificent beard. I thought it would be interesting to hear Nick's views on organisational change for media agencies. He holds much hope for the agencies, providing they become leaner and more focused on their strengths. He was less positive about the outlook for the big ad agency however.
I also quizzed him on where the threat to the media agency might come from. It was his response to this question that intrigued me the most. He saw clients being drawn to the boutique agencies that provide a specific service, with the management of this portfolio left - depending on the capabilities & resource - to the client (more on that one another time).
Which leaves the big agency network in a tricky place.
Does the media agency network continue to provide an ever wider patchwork of 'services' (from programme making & content management to product innovation and beyond) or does it focus on 'core strengths' and learn to collaborate with the boutique agencies that Nick speaks about?
Clients are simply not taken in by the promise of the myriad of services from some of the media agencies. After all, many clients still perceive the media agency as 'the guys who buy the ad space'.
So to Nick's valid point about getting leaner, I sense that some agencies (and their owners) will be looking to streamline their service offering by working out what they can do brilliantly and match that with client expectations and needs. Such streamlining though does not mean an inevitable slide back to a focus on 'the buy'. Change means a fresh look at defining what a media agency exists for. As Nick says, agencies could be looking to augment humanity rather than merely thinking about screens.
With regards to collaboration, the media agency has years of working side by side with the other agencies, so they should be in a good place to work with a portfolio of specialist agencies.
However, there is room for improvement. Decades of working with content companies/media owners has led to a skewed working relationship. Ideas generated by the media owner are still passed off by media agencies as their own. Access to clients is carefully guarded by the agency, which at times helps the client, at other times suffocates fresh thinking. Such a waste of what could be incredibly fruitful partnerships.I would love to hear your views on what Nick had to say.