The issue is not black and white. Of course media planning should be totally integrated within the creative process, especially today as more and more media are open to new, innovative ways of doing business. But the fact is that the full-service agencies of the past provided less integration than exists today between good creative agencies working in harmony with good media agencies to produce successful advertising for a shared client.
Of course media planning should be totally integrated with media buying. But the truth is that this is better achieved today by the best media specialist agencies than it was in the past by the full service agencies.
Burtch Drake (president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies) hit the nail on the head when he said that "the large agencies have strengthened their buying organizations, spun them off and strengthened their staffing." It's not, however, the spin-off per se which makes the difference. It's the strengthening of management, staff, systems and the refocusing of top management's attention to the media part of the advertising business that matters.
Mr. Drake is wrong, however, to refer to media buying in isolation. So long as agency managements continue to see media buying as an isolated function they will continue to miss the opportunities for themselves as well as their clients.
The future lies with media specialists who are able to consider in totality and in full context the most effective ways to invest their clients' budgets in whichever forms of media vehicle will best communicate with the consumer.
The process of spinning off and rebranding legitimizes and supports these fundamental changes, giving media management the voice they need yet making them fully accountable.