Why media departments are finished in advertising agencies Bob Jones of BMP

from the Account Planning – Paper collection IPA 1981 (used with permission from WARC)

This is the first in a series of papers published by the IPA in 1981 to explain this new fangled account planning function.  Don Cowley writes the introduction which I will scan and upload later. This is an early attempt to provide an overview of the function. But we have the benefit of hindsight now too.

Why media departments are finished in advertising agencies. .. Bob Jones Boase Massimi Pollitt Sept 1968

This is a historic paper. I know I keep waxing eloquent about all of these papers but there really is a lot here.  Not a particularly long paper. There is a problem though. The date can’t possibly be right because in Sept 1968 Boase Massimi Pollitt had not yet opened its doors.  Assume that the paper is written and published some time in 1969 or 1970. That’s my guess.  Why? Because what we have here is a party political piece about the failures of media departments and how account planning (which by this time is only in 2 agencies ( Boase Massimi Pollitt and J Walter Thompson. Is going to replace the media department. If that doesn’t whet your appetite nothing else will so here without further ado is the link to the paper: Are Media departments out of date Bob Jones  It’s only 2 pages.

Fascinating.  He’s right AND wrong. Remember the date 1971 – that is the date that a Mr Green set up the very first media independent. and over the next decade one by one the senior media people left to start up their own independents.   There can be very few people in the advertising business now who remember working in an advertising agency with a media department. What Bob Jones expects is that account planners will do the media planning and buying. Party political point. Because that is what both the BMP planners and the JWT planners started off doing. They laid out the schedules.  Even if others bought them. So he expected the expansion of planning to other agencies to swallow up the media function. It didn’t.  The planning and buying went out the door and advertising has been the poorer ever since. It suited the idea that you develop creative ideas and then hand them over to a media planner and buyer whose job it is to put them in front of the maximum number of people at the lowest cost.  So you pass the parcel onto media. Who don’t even need to be in the same building.  Hell they don’t even need to be in the same meetings. Ridiculous. Not just because of the duplication but because media planning IS part of communications planning.

Customer not channel focussed

What makes this paper valuable is the critiques of media when it is focussed on audience research rather than advertising effectiveness. Which is driven by media owners who corrupt the measures because inevitably they are single issue and partisan.  But mainly because of the importance of integration. Where Bob Jones was wrong was that media didn’t disappear. It was driven out. Media independent owners made small fortunes based on buying at scale. But it has been fascinating how even with fees as low as 1% that the account planning function started to grow up in media independents too. Now their account planning departments are as numerous as those in ad agencies.  You can’t just buy media you have to plan it. You have to plan it in relation not to channels but to real people. So this is a historic footnote which predicts the demise of media departments. but also the rise of account planning. And he was right.

There is another way of looking at this paper. And that is in the light of digital. Because account planning cannot be partisan towards media channels however big they are. They have to see the whole customer. Offline as well as online. Arguably it is the weakness of account planning for digital advertising which allows it to be channel specific not integrated. If you are a planner who specialises in twitter, or facebook. Or any of Google’s respective slabs. Then you are functioning as a media planner not an advertising or comms planner. We still need to stay closer to the customer than the channel.  Not such an old fashioned paper then…

First published in Admap Oct 1969, ©Warc. Published with permission of the copyright holder. Visit www.warc.com for more articles like this.

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