MindShare sets a bold example

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MindShare's ambitious scheme to equip consumers with PDAs to track media usage is a bold, big idea that shows the increasingly strategic role played by global media agencies.

When holding companies in the past decade split media departments from ad agencies, the hope was to generate more revenue by letting media shops stand on their own. That's turned the agency world on its head: Emboldened media agencies are in a strong position to displace ad agency networks as clients' lead resource for communication strategy and advertising distribution.

The agency business once consisted of creatives, suits and media people. That doesn't fit today. Creatives often aren't that creative. Many suits don't wear suits. And some of the most creative thinking comes from media shops.

Agency networks are in danger of falling to commodity status; any good shop can create good ads, and small ones typically do it for less money. The real value comes from the media agency, which can provide the brains (strategy, intelligence) and logistics (buying media, distributing the creative shop's work).

Media buying is a commodity service; any good media agency can manage it. The added value comes from planning and strategy. That's what consumer research at WPP's MindShare is all about.

MindShare is out to track how consumers in various countries recall media and point-of-sale programs. PDAs will prompt participants once an hour to check off what communications they've noticed (TV, billboards, end-of-aisle displays) based on where they've been (living room, in transit, at the supermarket). The approach is media-neutral; the intent is to see how different media reach consumers and work together.

Feasible? Cost-effective? Will data be accurate and actionable? We'll let MindShare and the market figure that out. MindShare is doing what counts: developing intelligence to help marketers spend money more efficiently. Let's see rivals respond with their own big new ideas to move the market.

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