Media Moves Past ‘Good Old Days’

NEW YORK Some creatives may yearn for the so-called “good old days” before the unbundling of media and advertising agencies.

But a group of senior media agency executives told an Advertising Week crowd late Thursday that a return to the unbundled world would be harmful to clients, financially inefficient and just plain “silly,” as Havas’ Media Planning Group CEO Charles Rutman put it.

Steve Grubbs, CEO of Omnicom Group’s PHD North America, asserted that before media was separated at co-owned BBDO, the media planning and buying there was considered top notch.

“But what we do now” as separate media specialists, he said, “is so much better than what we did as part of the creative agency,” that to rebundle the entities now would to a big step backwards for media. “We’d be undercapitalized and under-resourced and we’d go right back to the kind of work we were doing. It’s just not a priority.”

In fact, said Grubbs, “when we go into a pitch with a larger agency, it’s still sometimes five or ten minutes at the end of the presentation for media.”

John Mandel, U.S. chairman and worldwide chief global buying officer at WPP Group’s Mediacom, said that those who clamor for rebundling “presuppose that media is disconnected from the creative and frankly that’s a crock of shit. When we did Reebok, we lived with [Red Cell CEO] Andy Berlin. We all do that. We’re not divorced from creative, we’re living with these folks.”

MPG’s Rutman said, “Collaboration can happen regardless of the organizational or financial structure.” Where the rebundling argument “falls apart,” he said, “is that it tends not to be about the work but control of the work.”

If the good old days are about recombining media and creative agencies so that media can have the “last fifteen minutes of the presentation, that’s a mistake,” said David Verklin, CEO of Aegis Group’s Carat Americas. But, he said, “if it’s Leo Burnett powered by Starcom, that’s an interesting idea.”

Jean Pool, COO of Interpublic Group’s Universal McCann North America, said media agencies need to control their P&Ls. “Creative is a drain” on resources, she said. “We need [financial] control but not divorce. It’s about being equal partners at the same table.”

Renetta McCann, CEO of the Americas at Starcom MediaVest Group, said the whole rebundling debate was a “McGuffin” being foisted upon the industry by certain account managers at creative agencies looking to justify their existence as generalists in the increasingly specialized world of advertising and media. “Not to put to sharp a point on it,” she said.