There’s no such thing as a victimless crime
There’s a ‘fin de siècle’ feeling in the air of industry. Banking and Newspaper Publishing are at the heart of the storm, in the eyes of the politicians and public alike. It’s not a great time to be a banker or a newspaper executive.
We have been presented with tangible, toxic evidence of what has been going on in the pursuit of market share and short-term profit, in organisations run by rich and incredibly powerful individuals.
It’s not for me to judge what they knew of the bad practices but it’s almost more of a crime for them to have been completely in the dark as to how their respective performances were being artificially stimulated. It would be like Ben Johnson’s running coach not recognising the effect of steroids.
Is our industry sector immune to this sort of immorality?
How should we all feel in the marketing and more specifically the media industry? It’s my contention that the sort of corrosive and ‘immoral’ behaviours identified in Banking and Publishing are being quietly tolerated in our own back yard. And for one reason alone…there don’t appear to be any victims.
The past five years have seen huge consolidation in the media buying industry. Advertisers, led in most part by aggressive procurement arms, have been seduced by ever increasing offers of media ‘value’ and so can’t be deemed to be the victims of the consolidation. And they would argue that they have in most cases been advised by specialist auditing firms who have endorsed their decisions. Agencies have all had to compete on the new ‘table stakes’ to drive short term share or risk a spiral downwards. So they can’t be seen as victims either. Media owners appear to be happy trading via agency group deals although the media owners with proper content to sell tend to complain bitterly in private. But today even the ‘strongest’ media owners are prepared to risk losing revenues in the short term, as they are all in turn ‘on the hook’ to their shareholders. There are notable exceptions but market observers would say that they have not benefitted from taking a ‘moral’ stance.
So without a victim to get behind, no one is going to review the way we work and the dominant players on the new stage of commoditised media buying will just get richer and more powerful.
But I think there is a victim in all of this and that is quality media content. Ironic then, in an era when we are all saying the new media model centres around ‘content’, that media owners who are world experts in producing it are having to think twice about what return they will get from investing in it.
If any politicians are reading this (unlikely as that is) my contention is that industry trading practices centred on agency volume are threatening the quality of media content, most notably home grown content. We know who the losers will be in the long run and we all know who is winning in the short term.