Is anyone in media getting their work done at the moment?

Medialand at Christmas - With the festive season upon us James Livesley puts down his cigar andmulled wine and peers through ad runken haze to examine how the party season impacts on the business side of media

In the world of media, there always seems to be a good reason for a party – a launch, some good financial results, a new client, a great campaign, the list goes on.

And when the biggest excuse of the year, Christmas, comes around, media people, like the rest of the Christmas celebrating world, let their hair down and have a party.

But with all the sherry and mince pies, photocopier shenanigans and hangovers, does the media end up getting anything done at all? It may be a great time to network, but does this really end up producing results of the revenue kind? According to Jenny Biggam, marketing director at Carat, Christmas is most definitely not a downtime.

“During 2003 we pitched on 23 December,” says Biggam.

“And then we went to see the client between the Christmas and New Year period. This year, our last pitch is on 22 December.”

In Biggam’s opinion, the Christmas period is not a time to put your feet up and think about what might be coming down your chimney on Christmas Eve.

“There is lots of socialising and meeting with media owners,” she adds. “But it’s a time when you have to work and play at the same time.”

Increasing the workload

Of course, the very fact that it is Christmas can up the workload at an agency.

“If you work on a retail account, it can be a make or break month,” explains Biggam.

“I mean, we work on Diageo.”

Christmas, of course, is an important time for the massive drinks manufacturer, which makes Guinness, Smirnoff Ice and Baileys Irish Cream, among many others.

Your work rate over the party season can also depend on your role within the agency, according to the Carat marketing director.

“Planners are quieter in December; buyers are busier,” says Biggam. “The pressure is on different parts of the agency.

It’s never been a down time for buyers. It used to be for pitches, but not now.

“In some ways, it’s now a good time to pitch because you can get planning input.”

Of course, working hard at Christmas is like pulling a late one at the office – it’s always worth a few Brownie points.

Biggam adds: “Clients can use Christmas to test an agency’s commitment.”

Pedro Avery, joint managing director of BLM Media, backs what Biggam says about Christmas.

“December is a crucial time for trading, irrespective of media channels,” says Avery.

“While planning starts in July or August, the reality of the fiscal year is that there is still some tinkering this time of year.”

Avery adds: “It’s particularly busy in TV. ITV has performed well over the last six to eight weeks, so it has helped boost the work. People are looking to trade that little bit more.”

The BLM boss admits that restaurants are busier this time of year and there are advantages to networking, but it is definitely not feet up time.

“The restaurants are fuller, there is more of a conscious effort to get out. There are more people having lunches, but you just have to work later in the evening.”

However, Avery does admit that not all agencies will be nose to the grindstone.

“In the land of agencies, there will be those with two-year deals,” he says. “They will be doing nothing this time of year.”

But he adds: “It’s as busy now as it’s ever been.”

Also, Avery makes the point that even the period between Christmas and New Year is not safe.

“With the age of technology as it is, I won’t be in work, but I will be doing work over that period. There are a number of clients who will be working over that period, so I will be using technology to stay in touch.”

BlackBerry, or cranberry sauce?

When it comes to Christmas then, the technological innovation that is the BlackBerry can be a curse as well as a blessing.

And on the media owner side, it seems work life at Christmas is not about pulling crackers and wearing small hats at peculiar angles either.

“Everyone is at ramming speed,” says Chris Hughes, publisher of Condé Nast’s Easy Living, the home and leisure magazine set for launch next year.

He explains: “Lots of budgets are signed off later and later. In the monthly magazine world, December is busy. It’s when lots of deals are formed for the following year.”

“The biggest magazines are very busy around October, November and December,” says Hughes.

“In magazineland we are working on Christmas from July onwards then at Christmas we are working on Easter. We’re now thinking of March onwards.

It’s a fantastically busy time for us.”

So, are the Christmas parties good times to make those important contacts? Can a kiss under the mistletoe in December lead to a contract in March?

New Year’s resolution

Not so, says Hughes: “You might get the odd pocket of luck with one or two people around. I don’t think deals are done at Christmas parties or at other times of the year.”

So, if there are no deals to be done what’s the point? “Fun,” says the Easy Living man. “If the aim of a party isn’t to have fun you shouldn’t have a party.”

But he adds: “It can be quite good to get in a short-term word that you have been trying to get in for a long time.

Then in January, when everyone has finally stopped drinking, you can commiserate with each other.”

Christmas is the time of goodwill to all men, but it appears, in the media world, goodwill goes out the window when it comes to planning the forthcoming year and taking advantage of those short-term Christmas deals.

The media industry goes 12 months a year without stopping.

Media bosses maybe saying “bah humbug” and media workers could even be classed as a bunch of Bob Cratchetts this festive period– but there is always time for a drink, as long as you get the work done.

A time to look to the future–and dust off the CV?

While Christmas can be a good time to reflect on the past and present, it can also be a time to look at what the ghost of career future has to say.

But are people in the media actually out there looking to see what’s available in the job market? Recently,, owned by Reed Business Information, claimed that 70%of workers in media would use the Christmas break to look for a new job.

If this is the case, then it could make Christmas even busier for media workers who, as well as contending with a high workload and a hangover, must also deal with interviews and CVs. It would make sense then that recruitment consultants are up to their eyeballs in work over the annual festive season.

Ken Lathane, managing director of recruitment consultant Carreras Lathane, looks upon this piece of research by with some scepticism.

“I dispute what Reed said,” says Lathane. “In December, by and large, the first two weeks are the same. But around the 15th or 16th it stops dead. Then nothing happens until the New Year.

“If people were looking for a job, they could get hold of me. But they don’t. People look upon job-hunting as part of the nine to five.

People phone from the office, take interviews from the office.”

He adds: “It is very quiet over Christmas in my experience.”

Networking protocol for the party season

? Don’t insult your boss.

? Don’t snog your boss.

? Don’t photocopy any part of your anatomy. It’s all a bit ’80s really these days.

? Don’t tell anyone what you really think of them.

Honestly, we can’t stress this one enough. Don’t do it.

? Don’t let your camera-phone out of your sight. Your partner could end up receiving some rather rude multimedia messages if it falls into the wrong hands.

? Don’t wear or carry your own mistletoe

? Don’t put your card behind the bar and then get so drunk you forget it

? Don’t mix with the IT crowd.

According to research from Sussex internet outfit Sigmer Technologies, 40% of IT workers have been sick at their office party.

? Do wear a cravat.

Some people will think you are stylish. Many will think you are a muppet. But at least it gets you noticed.

? Do memorise the night bus network.

They may be full of tramps and freaks, but they get you home when there’s no dodgy minicabs around.

? Do check the dress code. A dinner jacket is fine at an awards bash, but you will look at out of place at Fabric.

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