Media Shops Outgun Brand Agencies During Consultant Shootout

The heads of four of the world's largest media agencies - Carat, Initiative Media, Starcom MediaVest Group and Universal McCann - recently pitched a panel of top advertising management consultants in what proved to be the first shoot-out of its kind. The pitch was a general credentials presentation that was not intended for any specific piece of business, but to win the good graces of influential consultants who might ultimately impact the outcome of future advertising account reviews.

The media agency presentations surprised many of the consultants who also saw about a dozen pitches from so-called full-service agencies during the event, which was hosted by, a Web site that facilitates contact between ad agencies and advertising search consultants.

"Ironically, a lot of the consultants thought the media agencies were better positioned than the strategic/brand agency presentations," said Arthur Anderson, president of Morgan Anderson Consultants, one of several dozen consultants that participated in the AdForum Worldwide Summit in New York on Oct. 7, some from as far away as Singapore.



It was the second year that AdForum hosted such and event, but the first to include the major agency media networks and it was the contrast between the presentations of the brand and media shops that underscored the event.

In fact, consultants surveyed by after the event said their perceptions of media agencies had generally improved for the better.

"The media networks articulated specific approaches and demonstrated fresh thinking and fresh approaches that you'd have to call USP - a unique selling proposition. They demonstrated that it isn't just about media. It's about the future of communications," said Rob Drasin, vice president of AdForum. While the proceedings were not open to the press, Drasin said the media agencies generally provided a broader, more comprehensive view of communications than did the brand agencies.

"Rather than just saying they can buy media they were talking about what the world going to look like. They're hiring sociologists. They're hiring behavioral scientists. They're hiring futurists," he said.

Another executive who participated in the summit said the takeaway from on brand agencies was "that they have their head stuck in the sand."

While the CEOs of four big media shops - Carat's David Verklin, Initiative's Alec Gerster, SMG's Nick Brien and Renetta McCann and Universal's Robin Kent - some major agencies were noticeably absent, especially WPP's MindShare, Publicis' Zenith Optimedia, Omnicom's OMD and PHD units and Havas' MPG unit.

How Ad Consultant Perceptions Of Media Agencies Changed

Changed Positively Changed Negatively
Agree Strongly 40% 20%
Agree 60% 53%
No Opinion 0% 7%
Disagree 0% 20%
Disagree Strongly 0% 0%

Source: AdForum survey of advertising management consultants. Base = 15.
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