Economic downturn will change shape of industry forever

Most of the gongs at the recent 2008 Media Week Awards ceremony went to communications planning and buying that stepped outside the traditional media channels.

This could be for a number of reasons: the judges may like new things or traditional routes may be better rewarded by other awards ceremonies.

Or it could be that stepping outside the traditional is the way forward, the new paradigm.

If it is, then we must all expect to give up traditional ways of working in order to gain a better return for our clients' brands.

This is all well and good in theory, but it gets trickier when you try and make it happen, because it involves people switching roles, job titles being changed or reporting lines altering or becoming a bit blurred. Some people don't have a problem with that, but some people very definitely do.

This all echoes Media Week editor Steve Barrett's leader a couple of weeks ago (Kangaroo is still a good proposition for advertisers, 18 November, page 18). When referring to the stumbling development of Kangeroo, he advised those involved that they should "shelve their short-term agendas for the greater long-term good".

Even the most high-minded of us have trouble with that. Every few years, there's a huge fight at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Jesus' burial place.

Just last month, monks from the Armenian and the Greek Orthodox churches were arrested by riot police. Punches were thrown, tapestries were knocked down and decorations were trampled. If you want to see monks brawling, cameras captured the whole thing. But why were they fighting? It was something to do with the order of the processions.

The incident stands out because of its venue. The monks were there to commemorate Jesus, who was clearly against squabbling over rank and position.

We are likely to come out of this current downturn - those of us who survive it - with an industry that is in a radically different shape to 2008.

Most of the old rules of trading and audience research are already anachronistic. The client still wants the same thing - to sell more product - and the rest of us are here to facilitate that. And that is really the only reason for us to be here.

If we forget that objective in the chaos of short-term goals, or try to hang on to the comfort of the old ways of behaving, then we forget our very purpose.

Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom, sue.unerman@haymarket.com

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