Pioneer spirit can live on as media fragments

The rise of large media specialists may seem to signal the end for individuals keen to

Some industries are clearly magnets which attract people who have a strong spark of entrepreneurial spirit.

Traditionally advertising agencies have been such hothouses, and more recently media specialists have joined them.

That is just as well. This characteristic has provided the lifeblood of an industry which regularly rejuvenates itself by piggybacking on the best of the next generation’s energy and drive.

This magnetism is in part maintained by a hope that anyone with the talent, drive and luck can one day start their own business.

When we started Pattison Horswell Durden, it felt as if in the wake of the formation and success of Zenith, people still wanted the individual to succeed.

Our good fortune was being given the time to build our business organically, using an alternative proposition to the prevailing industry trend towards buying clout.

But that buying bandwagon has now slowed, and the whole sector has matured into adulthood and broadened its perspective. Indeed, we decided to sell our company to Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO in order to create a top five specialist by size, hopefully with the reputation for innovation in planning forged through years of defiant endeavour.

What does this all mean for new launches in the sector?

With the emergence of a media specialist super league – mostly owned by multinationals, or shareholders – you might think that setting up a new venture would have as much viability as the Duchess of York becoming a successful supermodel.

I believe that if this were true then our industry would be in danger of repelling the next genera tion of ambitious entrepreneurs as surely as reversing the polarity of a magnet. After all, with respect, no one joins BP in the hope of eventually owning their own oil company.

Perhaps we could all look forward to a media dark age of commodity trading and administration -based systems, run by bespectacled finance people.

Happily, I foresee a quite different scenario.

The expansion of media specialists into areas such as sponsorship, events, publishing and even editorial territories along with new technology and methods will cause a fragmentation of media services. There is going to be more and more room for pioneers.

Buying muscle is becoming a hygiene factor, a minimum standard consideration by clients of a certain type and scale.

But specialist expertise and the application of intelligence will always be in short supply and be an even more highly prized service in the very near future. Interpreters not mechanics will rule.

I have a hunch that the next couple of years may see the birth of a new breed of media-based services which will focus on this more ethereal, but fertile, ground for their sustenance.

While, parochially, it would be unwelcome competition for us, it would be healthy for the sector as a whole.

In the long term, talented, ambitious people must be assured that the word “entrepreneur” is still a valued one, and that personal enterprise is still a realistic possibility in the media business.

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