Advertising Week Session Explores Controversial Agency Issue

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NEW YORK ( -- One of the world’s most important media players told an Advertising Week audience that the crucial discipline of media planning should remain right where it is -- in media services agencies -- and not moved back to ad agencies.

Group M CEO Irwin Gotlieb defended keeping media planning outside of ad agencies.
'Market has spoken'
“The market has spoken,” said Group M CEO Irwin Gotlieb, referring to the consolidation trend of major marketing budgets in a handful of media agency networks in recent years. Owned by WPP Group, Group M oversees MindShare and Mediaedge:cia, agencies whose collective buying clout is unmatched.

Mr. Gotlieb’s position comes amid increasing speculation as to whether ad agencies’ creative processes would benefit from the consumer insights yielded by media planners. His response was provoked by Bartle Bogle Hegarty Chairman-Worldwide Creative Director John Hegarty’s insistence that “media planning must be brought back into the creative agencies. Buying could be left outside.”

As they use a greater variety of devices to get their content, consumers are becoming more difficult to reach through traditional mass advertising. That fragmentation has meant that the most important question facing marketers is often not a creative one but one that has to do with which channels should be used to reach audiences.

'Media neutrality'
“The vast majority of strategic decisions are made by media agencies and most practice a high degree of media neutrality,” Mr. Gotlieb said.

The concept of media neutrality or agnosticism has been an important issue as marketers and agencies deal with the diminishing effectiveness of TV in reaching audiences that are more and more turning to wireless devices for content and employing ad-skipping technologies like DVRs. However, neither Mr. Gotlieb nor his fellow panelists was eager to herald the death of the 30-second spot. “The real challenge is how you combine and optimize your allocation,” he said.

Ad agencies, too, are wrestling with that challenge. At a separate panel, a trio of executives from Strawberry Frog, Taxi and Anomaly -- shops looking to revise the agency model -- all cited their willingness to work in nontraditional media as a crucial selling point.

Turned down clients
Anomaly’s new-business director, Jason DeLand, said the firm has turned down a number of clients on the basis of their media approach. “When it starts and stops with advertising, we don’t want to do it,” he said.

These executives were also asked the question of whether they’d consider selling to a holding company. Each said he wouldn’t. “I don’t think any of us would feel comfortable talking about it,” said Scott Goodson, CEO and chief creative officer of Strawberry Frog.

Taxi's chairman-chief creative officer, Paul Lavoie, when asked if his agency would consider selling to a WPP Group or Omnicom Group, said simply, “No.” He added, “The good thing is we’re selling to people inside Taxi.”

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