Why agencies should wish good fortune on all media owners

For anyone who hasn't heard of Rory Sutherland, a) search on the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising website, b) check out his blog and c) where have you been?

Tess Alps, chief executive of Thinkbox
Tess Alps, chief executive of Thinkbox

Rory is one of the most influential thinkers in our industry and for those of you in IPA agencies, he's your new president.

The IPA president plays a crucial role making the case for advertising's positive contribution to business and society, but also in getting the industry to think about itself, adapt, restructure and apply its considerable skills to the issues we have as professionals and as citizens.

Rory is a Renaissance man: witty, energetic, intellectual, principled. He even loves Bach, curries, Twitter and cardigans like me.

Rory thinks and writes like a strategic planner, but he is in fact a creative director and the first creative to be the IPA president. I'm interested to see whether this affects his approach. This quote from his inaugural speech suggests it might: "There's a particularly vital reason I am keen to emphasise the value of what we do, independent of the media spend. And that's because of falling media costs.

"If the stock market continues to link our fortunes as agencies with the fortunes of the media, we have an enormous problem. We should be keen to de-link how we make money from how media make money."

Media agencies have quite rightly been trying to find a better way of getting paid than by commission for some time. Ways that better reflect the effort and skill that go into different media executions and, increasingly, the business success that those executions deliver.

But I'm not sure that de-linking how agencies make money from the way media make money is a wholly desirable thing.

The IPA holds no remit for the media owner community, but agencies are more dependent on healthy media owners than Rory seems to acknowledge.

Media agencies do much more than planning and buying display advertising these days, but you can't do PR without print titles, you can't do sports sponsorship without broadcast coverage, and so on.

Certainly, the linkage of advertising spend to media owner health is one of the main defences the IPA - and the Advertising Association - puts up.

Communications minister Stephen Carter said at the ISBA conference earlier this year that if advertisers no longer deliver a cultural benefit by funding important media, then maybe government wouldn't be inclined to look so favourably on them.

Media owners have a duty of care to advertisers and agencies, but the reverse is also true.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox tess.alps@haymarket.com

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