The Dentsu Aegis Network Debates: Media Agencies Are the New Creative Agencies


Earlier this year, we were challenged by the Carat Senior Leadership Team to find ways to bring our internal mantra, ‘Make Brave Happen’, to life in our agency culture. We held a competition at a company meeting with each person or team having 60 seconds or less to pitch their idea for how to do this.

media creative debate

Our elevator pitch went like this, “The DAN Debates will be a friendly version of white-collar boxing but using words as the weapon of choice.  Come and see big hitters and smart thinkers debating current industry hot topics all bravely contested in front of you and your peers.” Brilliant banter and low blows were promised. My idea met with a hearty round of applause, so a few months later, on Friday, 29 July, the first debate took place.

We circulated several topics for a vote and the chosen topic was: ‘Media agencies are the new creative agencies.’ This statement certainly provided fodder for some rowdy repartee.

The two teams were comprised of Vanessa Eagle, Group Business Director at Posterscope and Sanjay Nair, Strategic Planning Director at Carat arguing for the proposition versus Matthew Hook, Chief Strategy Officer at DAN and Chrystal Ding, Strategic Innovation Director at Carat fighting the opposition corner. Andrew Lloyd, Group Client Partner at Carat was the master of ceremonies and adjudicator for the event.

The event kicked off Friday afternoon with Andrew requesting a show of hands from the audience prior to the debate to gauge which side they started out supporting. Most were for the proposition.

Sanjay began, arguing for the proposition. He compared the old creative agency model of yesteryear to struggling dinosaurs, no longer relevant in an evolving world. Access to data and the ability to deliver killer insights is required, he said. The need to control resources and budgets all ladder up the motion put forward: that media agencies are in fact the new creative agencies, delivering creative solutions to solve current business challenges in this ever-evolving landscape.

Vanessa then further strengthened the proposition argument and delivered some humorous jabs at the opposition, by providing solid examples of DAN work that delivered on this claim, namely the Cannes Lion winning Pimm’s ‘Grab a Seat’ OOH activation and the Bodyform ‘Dear Richard’ campaign. Both, she said, were stellar examples of media agencies delivering creative solutions and campaigns for clients.  In summation, Sanjay and Vanessa explained that while they are not proposing that media agencies should necessarily make TV ads, it is the media agency that can – and should - fundamentally inform and directs the creative through data and insights and via the relationship fostered with the client. 

But the opposition came in hot, with Chrystal delivering a very pointed speech highlighting the differences between, and the need for, convergence (media) and divergence (creative) within the advertising industry. She explained that creatives are loyal to an idea, whereas media folk are loyal to the consumer, thus providing the basis for the opposition’s premise that whilst media agencies may create things, that does not make them creatives.

Matthew Hook, on his last day sitting in the MD chair for Carat, rounded out the opposition argument by agreeing that as the media landscape evolves, so do our roles and offering, with media agencies being the engineers constructing and delivering what people need. This, he said, is in contrast to the creative agency which may give life to what people love. The need for respect and focus were put forward as key foundations for the argument.

Hooky said media agencies need to respect the role of the creative agencies and bridge the gap between the two. He argued we should focus on building deeper connections and doing brilliant work using the specialists at hand.

The opposition summed up by explaining that it is our role to be the bridge between the sense and nonsense, working with the creative agencies, with each of us thriving within our individual cultures of convergence and divergence respectively.

With the arguments duly delivered a second show of hands from the audience revealed that sentiment had been swayed: the opposition came out the winners having successfully argued that media agencies are not the new creative agencies.

A fantastic effort was made by all four debaters. The event led to some very considered and interesting comments for the floor and a thought-provoking discussion.

Thank you to everyone who was involved and to the lively audience. We’ll be back with another DAN Debate at Carat or another sister agency soon.

media creative debate
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