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We reported last week that a number of advertisers using independent media buying services are re-thinking their strategies. The trend-shift is based on the feeling that media pricing is now at parity, no matter who is doing the buying.

Burtch Drake, president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said, "The large advertising agencies have responded effectively to the threat that buying services were posing to their business. They've strengthened their buying organizations, they've spun them off and they've strengthened their staffing."

When media advertising comprised two-thirds of the typical client's marketing budget, media buying expertise was a paramount virtue. But now, with media advertising at about one-third of the over-all budget, there's a greater need for closer coordination of media with other elements of the client's marketing mix. That may be the key reason some well-known advertisers are returning their media-buying to their agencies-they want an integrated plan.

Why, then, are the big agencies spinning off the media buying into separate units? Why not make it more a part of the whole creative process?

For their part, the media are finally responding to their revenue losses by offering a wide variety of added-value programs: tie-in promotions, extra communications with retailers, help with consumer promotions, etc. But we hear of agency media units turning those deals down cold. They're still buying numbers and deals, still bogged down in the same old demographics with no desire to upset a media plan even though an enterprising media rep has something of real value for the client.

The shift in marketing tactics to new media and integrated promotions provides a golden opportunity for advertising agencies to restore their image as marketing partners rather than "vendors." But it won't happen if they continue to treat media-buying as a discrete numbers game. They can't afford to overlook creative help now coming from the media community.

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