Media X: Scare Tactics

Scare Tactics By Jack Feuer Here we are on Halloween, and it's fitting -- and chilling -- that media agencies once again face the terrifying specter of Lee Clow talking about media. There he was in L.A. last week, announcing at a creative conference put on by his house organ Adweek that he's plotting to convene a "Media Arts Festival" in Cabo San Lucas.

Numerous attempts by Old World agency leaders in recent years to turn back time and rebundle media have failed. But as the declaration by TBWA's ancient, undead leader demonstrates, their thirst for media agency blood is undiminished.

This is not a new fear, of course.

Clow's been talking about media creativity for at least a decade. At the beginning of this century, OMD had to compete with one arm tied behind its back until John Wren forced its creative siblings to give up media planning. John Dooner tried to turn Initiative into a eunuch almost from the agency's birth. And Crispin, the smirking superstar of mainstream U.S. advertising, became the irritating industry icon it is today by doing what planners and buyers at SMG, GroupM and many other finest-kind media thinkers routinely do -- and frequently better -- on a daily basis.



But now these attacks are getting more subtle and sinister. Now you now hear creatives routinely bloviate about "media arts," rather than simply plead with marketers to re-integrate the media function into full-service agencies.

In fact, the new tactic is to outdo each other in demonstrating media planning prowess. My friend Nigel, a fully credentialed creative type, was seriously pissed off at Clow's announcement last week. Not because he disagreed with the idea, but because Nigel wanted to do a media arts conference of his own. And he's far from alone.

Fortunately, media agencies have new weapons to counter this frightening new threat. Communications channel planning, for one thing, which allows best-of-breed players like MediaVest, struggling competitors like Universal McCann, and even also-rans like MPG to position themselves as smart thinkers rather than simply efficient buyers. And new communications planning boutiques, like Naked, have the sharp minds and quick reflexes to chop up creative-agency competitors.

In a fragmented universe, a full-service shop is a Frankenstein monster. It's a bloody nightmare and bad voodoo. Or Deutsch.

Anyway, the point is you've got to stay alert. Keep holy water by your bed, silver bullets in your gun and never, ever, dismiss that bump in the night.

It could be Campbell-Ewald, just back from Baja, coming to steal your business.

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