Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Who the XXXX is Clare Enders?

...Or to put it another way - "where has the media voice of the agency world gone?" asks HMDG's Greg Grimmer.

It has come to my attention over the last few months that we have a new 'Empress of Media'. Regular readers of MediaTel Newsline, or MediaGuardian or MediaWeek or indeed virtually anywhere will have seen Enders Analysis, and more specifically Claire Enders, proclaiming regularly and bluntly about all things media.

Now I myself am not shy of a bit of self promotion, happy to turn up at the opening of (selective) media envelopes, and speak at conferences, weddings, and barmitzfah's, but Ms Enders is making me seem like a recluse. She is everywhere and not shy of making a few enemies along the way.

Now I have never met Claire but mutual acquaintances have told me she is sharp, clever, funny and enjoys being the centre of attention (obviously!) and that she is running a successful business - but why has she suddenly become the doyenne of the media circuit? And more to the point, why is it that she has been the lone media voice in areas where we would expect to hear from our trade bodies and media super groups?

In fact it is not just the media circuit - the ubiquitous Enders can even be seen at House of Commons' select committees criticising government ministers' naivety and lack of basic media understanding. However, Ms Enders' latest move is the one that has really caught my eye - she is taking on big Rupe himself. The News Corp Evil Empire. I am envisioning Enders in Princess Leia plaits and Big Rupe dressed up in his best Darth Vader kit. Surely this is not a battle of equals?

Now running a 'small business' (Companies House definition not mine) registered in Dundee, I can see the business benefit for Claire and her eponymous firm of creating waves and column inches out of not just their reports and forecasts but also her occasional fight-picking abilities (she has proved several times that she isn't scared of the big boys). But normally her forthright views are on old media's habit of tying up capital in fixed assets, or new media's obsession with forgetting to remember the lessons of history.

This time she is just trying to stop a seemingly smart piece of corporate manoeuvring by a media maven, or at least raise some serious questions about it. However, the real reason that I am perplexed by Enders asking the government to investigate News Corporation's purchase of the remainder of the BSkyB shares that it doesn't currently own, is the fact that this significant piece of media lobbying is being fronted by a small management consultancy and not by the normal media establishment of the IPA, ISBA, or indeed the media agency super groups who have obvious client interests to protect.

I remember Chris Locke, now of the great media buying behemoth VivaKi, then of Mediavest, writing an amusing piece in MediaWeek after the now defunct consultancy Michaelides and Bednash won 'Media Agency of the Year'. Chris argued that as they spend no money on media they could not possibly be the agency of the year. And if M+B could win, then so could his mum as she spends nothing on media either.

In another memory recall test, I remember the Monopolies and Mergers Committee investigating the potential power of Rank Screen Advertising when they got to about 80% of the cinema advertising market - a media that was then, as now, less than 1% of the total expenditure in the UK market. It was big news - media directors in advertising agencies got animated about the subject.

There was a similar noise around about the same time Rupert Murdoch took control of the failing mid-market tabloid Today from the union-busting Eddie Shah. The advertising world was nervous of the increasing might of the Murdoch media stable and activated both regulatory bodies and lobbying groups to monitor the deal's progress.

Today - some weeks after Enders' document was mailed to Vince Cable, where it apparently lay un-opened for some time, the rest of the newspaper industry has come together to petition the business secretary... but why the deafening silence from the media agency establishment when News Corporation are adding to their power once again? Are the likes of GroupM and OPera content with Claire Enders doing their work for them, or is the IPA Media Futures Committee (dominated by the CEO's of all the major buying agencies that equate for about 85% of all money spent on media in the UK) about to pronounce on the subject of Sky's ownership? Will Enders Analysis be able to rest easy as both TV viewers and advertisers have their interests looked after by those that control the income streams to the majority of Murdoch's empire?

Or are we now in an era where the major agency groups are too cosy with the major media owners and deals have been struck across boundaries away from the influence or control of a single government?

Surely that couldn't happen today in our egalitarian web-based economy... well maybe not, but of course that is a web that is basically run by three companies - Google, Apple and Microsoft.

And Claire, if you are reading this, I'm sure I wont have to remind you of the wise words of Mr Wilde - "there's only one thing worse than being talked about..."

See the article in full at MediaTel

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