The last media agency

“Because we are increasingly producing and sharing media, we have to relearn what that word can mean”

Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus

I talked a couple of days ago about writing this post, prompted by the PSFK badges. 

Well, on the morning we present our wares for the Media Week agency of the year awards (with some stiff competition from our fellow finalists, MEC, Zenith & Carat), it’s as good a time to get it out there…

The media agency you work for now is the last media agency you’ll ever work at.

Of course, by that I don’t mean that everyone who reads this is going to disappear off into some stellar career in some other sector of the communications landscape, or land a plum role client side, or give it all up to farm a smallholding in Norfolk.

Though some of you will.

But it’s more about the nature of what the folk in the media agency do for clients, and what that adds up to as an entity, as a community. 

And as I mentioned before, it was set off by the PSFK badges last week…

I arrived at the conference, and greeting me (along with an army of smiley helpers) was a table of badges with lots of different little badges, with words like ‘PR’, ‘communications’, ‘design’ and the like on them.  Something to help other people know what you did, spark a little conversation perhaps.

Anyway, I grabbed a media badge, as you do…


…and then looked around the other badges. 

And noticing the one saying ‘tech’, grabbed one of those too. 


Because what we in a media agency do nowadays is so infused with technology that each and every last one of us is a techie.  Whether we like it or not.

(Some folk, of course, like it more than others.  You can spot them by asking them how long a parsec is if the Millenium Falcon did the Kessel run in twelve of them…)

And then, I saw the ‘maker’ badge.


Now, traditionally ‘making’ is not what the ‘media agency’ do.  We don’t do making. 

At least, so the ad agency keep telling us.  Before showing us a thirty second script that needs to be shot in Argentina ‘because of the light’.

Yet as I write this of course, I’m up to my ears in the pocketgame manufacturing process (arranging atoms is a different kettle of fish compared to arranging bits), and upstairs Drum PHD have a list of projects as long as your arm of phenomenal things they’ve made…

…including the Sage AFP of The Krypton Factor, which is still the thing I can tell my Mum & Dad about and say ‘we did that’ so that they have at least a vague idea of what I do.

We make stuff, nowadays.  Lots of wonderful, different, diverse things. 

But why? 

Firstly, all a media agency has ever done is connect people with companies.  It’s our sole, driving purpose.  It just so happened there was an established, mass media delivery system that we used to do that when there was nothing else. 

Now there’s lots and lots and lots of different options.  But our purpose remains the same. 

Secondly, we’re techies because we need to understand how you connect people with companies…

Going back to Clay Shirky in Cognitive Surplus, he describes media as “the middle layer in any communication, whether it is as ancient as the alphabet or as recent as mobile phones”.  We need to know that ‘middle layer’ inside out.

Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, I think the making bit goes back to something Matt Jones talked about at PSFK…

He showed this picture of the Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind…


…where his character has this vision of a mountain in his head that he becomes obsessed with.

And the only way he can get it out properly is to make it.

That’s what I think we feel when we, the meadja agency lot, are immersed in that ‘middle layer’ between people and companies… it’s perhaps too hard to explain sometimes to an ad agency exactly what the thing is, or looks like, or should be. 

The only way we can get it out is by making it. 

That’s what we are nowadays:

We are media, we are techies, we are makers.