Best Media Operation

McKim Media GroupBest Media Operation - GoldIn a confidential poll of more than 70 media sellers, Toronto-based McKim Media Group was voted Best Media Operation.We asked Ann Boden, president of McKim Media Group and executive vice-president, national media director of parent...

McKim Media Group

Best Media Operation – Gold

In a confidential poll of more than 70 media sellers, Toronto-based McKim Media Group was voted Best Media Operation.

We asked Ann Boden, president of McKim Media Group and executive vice-president, national media director of parent company McKim Baker Lovick/BBDO, a few questions about the increasing importance of the media department in advertising agency operations and what it takes to stay on top.

Q. How far along the road are we to acknowledging the full importance of the media function?

A. During the past five years, the importance of media in the advertiser’s communication mix has steadily grown.

More accountability

It will continue to grow in the late ’90s as the media becomes more fragmented, ad budgets continue to be squeezed, and advertisers demand more accountability for their limited dollars.

I acknowledge the importance of the creative message. However, most advertisers’ budgets are split 80% to 90% media and 10% to 20% creative.

Quite frankly, in the past, most advertisers reversed their share of mind, attention and interest – that is, they spent probably 90% of their time worrying about creative, and only 10% on media.

That has changed considerably, certainly with most of my clients.

Continue to change

And I predict that will continue to change significantly with most advertisers.

Q. How will the face of advertising change once the function and influence of media people in agencies have been fully realized?

A. The last few years have seen a number of agencies both in the u.s. and Canada ‘rightsize’ to become much leaner organizations. A lot of these cuts have come from the account service middle management side of agencies.

Many of these leaner organizations are relying more and more on business directors who are in charge of a client’s business, supported by strong creative and media, and, in our case, also strong account planners.

Good media people have always been in demand, but I see this increasing in the environment I have just described.


Good senior media people are usually advertising generalists, who are experienced with client service requirements, are often the best, most experienced presenters in an agency, are great at managing and motivating a large staff, and usually possess good interpersonal skills.

With those skills, more and more of them will move into the ranks of agency management.

Recently, in the u.s., Hal Riney & Partners promoted its corporate media director to head up the agency’s San Francisco office. I predict more such promotions will follow in the next five years in both Canada and the u.s.

Q. What makes a good media department? A good media person?

A. Three key components.

1) Great clients. Clients who allow their media people to take risks, who encourage them to stretch, who challenge them every year to do better.

We are so lucky that we have so many clients of that ilk.

Breakthrough media

One of the best in my memory was [ctv President] John Cassaday when he was director of marketing for Campbell Soup. He used to challenge us to give him ‘breakthrough’ media. He got very involved in media. The media people on his business gave his brands every ounce of creativity they possibly could.

I believe clients get the media they deserve. Our clients deserve the best.

2) Great people. Hire, train, develop and care for the best people. Provide them with the environment where they can be the very best they can be. Treat them well. Show them you care about them. They will make you, and your clients, look great.

Good people push you up – they certainly have done that for me.

3) Superb media systems.

This is imperative to handle the many planning options and the myriad of changes that advertisers require in this nanosecond world in which we live. Flexibility is key. You must have the systems to enable you to turn on a dime.


This is very costly. That’s why I believe that by the end of the ’90s, about five or six big media operations will be doing at least 75% of the media in the country.

What makes a good media person? A good media person is creative, possesses lots of initiative, performs superbly under pressure, has excellent communication skills, is proactive, very persuasive, and, key, has a passion for the business.

It will kill you, or at least drive you crazy, if you don’t.

Q. If you had a chance to give one message to the rest of your agency, what would that be?

A. Thank you. I’ve been fortunate to work for the past 20 years in an agency that recognizes the importance of media and gives tremendous support and encouragement. That’s one of the reasons we are where we are today.

‘Wake up’

My message to other agencies would be to ‘wake up and smell the coffee.’ Encourage and support your media people, both with moral and financial support.

There is no doubt in my mind that in most agencies, the media people are the lowest paid, the hardest working and often the least appreciated.

If these agencies don’t change their mindset about media, they will lose their media business.

Q. If you had one message to give to the media, what would that be?

A. Thank you. For all your help and support in achieving our clients’ objectives. For being more and more flexible in meeting their ever-increasing needs.

So many clients have difficulties living in this nanosecond world. They are under terrible pressure. Sometimes it’s profit pressures, sometimes it’s pressure from head office in New York, sometimes it is just the economy.

But there is no doubt, that we, the agencies and the media, have to be much more responsive than we have in the past.

We used to do marketing and media plans that lasted for a year. No more.

At first, it was very difficult for media sellers to be more flexible, to turn on a dime. But I have to tell you, in the last year or so, I think they have made great strides. There was resistance at first, but now they have really got the message.

In the early ’80s, the business had a major slowdown, but then, suddenly, we were booming again. I don’t believe that suddenly our business is going to be in a terrific growth mode like it was a few years ago. Also, clients will not go back to giving us long lead times. They can’t. They’re all in a very competitive environment.

We have to continue to be more responsive and flexible because that’s what our clients need. Those two words weren’t even in our media lexicon five years ago.


It has been a tough year for all of us in the advertising business. Challenging. Demanding. And, at times, even brutal. But on the other hand, it’s been great. I’m up for more challenges in 1994. And I’m really thrilled about how the media has really come to the table. That has made it a lot easier for us to deliver great media plans and buys for our clients.

And, lastly, to my clients, thank you most of all. Without you, we wouldn’t exist. Thank you for your continued confidence in us, for challenging us daily, for allowing us to take risk, and for making us what we are today.

Media Buying Services

MBS Silver

Annual billings: $220 million

Top 10 Toronto-based clients:

BMW Canada

Canada Trust

The T. Eaton Company

Government of Ontario

Hershey Canada

The Hiram Walker Group

Ikea Canada

Ontario Lottery

Paramount Pictures

Re/Max Promotions

The following is an interview with Peter Swain, president, Media Buying Services.

We asked Peter Swain, president of Media Buying Services, what it takes to be a top media operaiton today. Here is his response:

‘It takes an abundance of senior people on staff who have a passion for personal service, the ability to provide incisive analysis of marketing problems, and the drive to seek innovative media solutions at unbeatable prices.

It takes an owner-run business to really appreciate the importance of customer loyalty.

It takes size to amortize the research resources necessary to provide on-target media solutions, and to provide the volume buying power to effect the right buy for our clients.

It takes a large and diverse roster of satisfied clients to provide the stability for meaningful media-owner deal-making.

It takes leadership to go beyond conventional media answers.

It takes a successful, integrated Quebec office to provide truly national competence.

It takes low staff turnover to provide a long-term, intimate appreciation of our client needs.

It takes superb relations with our suppliers to get the best deals and the most innovative added-value ideas.

It takes an independent, objective media focus to provide the best value to clients.

Unlike an advertising agency media department, attached or not, we control our own revenue stream and can make the necessary investment in top flight personnel, new media research, and the most sophisticated data management system in Canada.

We are not paying for another department or anyone’s golden handshake, and we don’t have to send our hard-earned income to New York, to German bankers, or to a brewery.’

Harrison Young Pesonen & Newell

Best Media Operation – Bronze

HYPN Media Management

Annual billings: $230 million

Top 10 clients:

Unilever – (all Canadian media buying)

Labatt Breweries of Canada


Cara Operations (Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s)

American Express

Speedy Muffler King

Home Hardware

Alberto Culver

Unitel Communications


We asked David Harrison, president of Harrison Young Pesonen & Newell, what it takes to be a top media operation today. Here is his response:

‘There are three criteria required to be a successful media management company today – value, value and value.

In this regard, we are no different than any other commercial enterprise.

Specifically, as a media agency, we must offer our clients:

- value-driven core services at a reasonable price;

- enhanced value for our clients’ media activities through improved efficiencies and effectiveness; and

- added value through innovation, anticipation and imagination.

Every media practitioner should understand the new economy and the role of advertising/media within this context.

The expectation of limitless video options on the super electronic highway, while exciting and seductive, is, nonetheless, distracting from the current realities for our industry.

Media advertising faces ever greater pressure from other forms of commercial promotion. We must ensure every effort is made to maximize the productivity of our client’s media funds today. A major part of this challenge is to improve the level of accountability through a results-orientation to media expenditures.

At HYPN, we are developing proprietary systems to achieve this objective.

Media management is complex, dynamic and an important component in the marketing process. Most client companies have abandoned in-house media expertise, but the intensity of media developments demands these companies make sure they have the best possible media strategists to help them through the turbulent times ahead.

As to the hypn future, we are building new service elements which will provide additional values for our clients.

Philosophically, we will continue to be an organization which believes in hard work, kept promises and common sense.

The Cream of the Crop…

David Cairns

Best Media Director

David Cairns is vice-president, media director at Toronto-based Chiat/Day.

Born and raised in Toronto, Cairns holds degrees in visuals arts from York University (Toronto) and education from the University of Toronto.

Second career

Advertising is Cairn’s second career. He first taught art in rural p