Media Agencies Working In Creative Realm

In a development that has huge implication for the status of creative agencies, producing advertising content is starting to move away from them and toward media agencies and media companies.

At a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon, executives said that the days of creative being the sole province of creative agencies are gone. They agreed that media agencies are often the place where a lot of the big ideas happen and are increasingly being carried out.

David Verklin, president of Carat North America in New York, said that he thinks that media will be getting more creative work in the future. Verklin said creative is being unbundled right now, with a niche that will be filled in the future by creative boutiques and the fact that media companies like Hearst and Conde Nast developing hundreds of ads and the fact that NBC will provide creative as well.

Verklin, whose Carat is a pure-play media agency in traditional media, said that was fine with him.

"You know what's going to happen, we'll create it [content] ourselves if we can't get it from a traditional agency," Verklin said.

Paul Woolmington, president of The Media Kitchen, echoed Verklin's sentiments.

"The missing link is between what media agencies have traditionally done and what creative agencies have traditionally done, and in this new world that we're in, there's a big gray chasm in between and it hasn't been filled," Woolmington said. "I completely agree media agencies can become producers."

The media-agencies-as-producers have already become reality, not only in the online space where the lines are blurred but also in the traditional world. Starcom worked with Miller Lite to create an eight-page insert that fit an appropriate environment but didn't work through a creative agency, said Starcom senior vice president Esther Franklin.

Steve Farella, president and chief executive officer of TargetCast TCM, said clients love when his smaller agency brings an idea about producing a magazine, or a dozen vignetees, or doing things that wouldn't get on the radar screen of bigger agencies.

"They love it. They absolutely love it," Farella said.

"We are going to have the wherewithal to produce the creative," Farella said of media agencies. He said that bigger agencies might bring the capability in house, but smaller ones might use one team at an agency and another team at another, "the way creative guys used media departments or media help when they started their agencies. It's reversed. Media is the central core of the client. Creative ideas feed the vignette idea, or the magazine idea, or a campaign I think are going to start to come through."

The agency people spoke during a panel discussion at the first day of Forecast 2004, a two-day conference sponsored by MediaPost Communications, publishers of the MediaDailyNews and MEDIA magazines. Wednesday's session, held in mid-town Manhattan, focused on traditional media with leaders in media agencies and companies, including MediaCom, Mediaedge:cia and PhD, plus ABC, CourtTV, Clear Channel and the Association of National Advertisers. The media forum was led by Joe Mandese, editor-in-chief of MediaPost. The conference continues today with sessions focusing on the online advertising industry.

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