Ex VCCP Media exec joins budding media agency AIP to usurp networks run on 'old ideas'

COO Mark Raymond and CEO Sam Fenton-Elstone

“Old-fashioned structures, rigid processes and established contractual agreements” are making traditional media buying agencies vulnerable to competition from new blood, according to former VCCP Media chief digital officer Sam Fenton-Elstone as he joins new buying entity Anything is Possible (AIP) as chief executive.

With the likes of creative agency Wieden + Kennedy and digital marketing consultancy Accenture moving into the buying space (albeit with the latter batting off accusations of a conflict of interest), Anything is Possible comes to the fore offering full-service marketing, media buying, attribution, media modelling, and creative services.

Its launch clients include Signet Jewelers (H. Samuel and Ernest Jones), Oxford Brookes University and WiseDriving.

Fenton-Elstone, alongside chief operating officer Mark Raymond, will be on the hunt for new clients in an ecosystem increasingly aware of transparency, value and measurement.

“The market is changing, the way we buy media is changing and the way we connect with consumers is changing," Fenton-Elstone told The Drum. "This is an opportunity that agencies should be capturing, but they’re not. We have developed a unique approach to planning that focuses on what really matters; generating valuable attention for brands - the AIP attention model."

This model, he said, aligns the company with client values rather than having it closely guard a profit margin.

“For too long, media agencies have made their money doing the things that are easy – the transactional part of media buying – when they should have been focussing on the needs of their clients and the creative side of media buying. The madness is that for far too long, agencies have operated like black boxes.”

He noted that years of “murky” practices have served to erode trust in the industry.

This has widely resulted in greater transparency around spend, closer business goal integration and a coming-together of creative and media. Understandably Fenton-Elstone claimed newly built entities designed to operate in such a way are the best bet for clients. He doubts the networks have the fluidity to quickly adapt to the demands of the market.

“AIP's mission is simple - add value to a client’s business and help them to be more successful. If we do that, they will reward us handsomely. This is how it was in the pre-internet era and how it should have always been, but somehow this has been lost as we transitioned into a digital first world. A lack of understanding (or lack of desire to understand) of the changing media environment has meant that far too much time and money has been spent in areas that generate little value.”

Again, he swung at agencies failing to add value to their proposition, something that has been lost in the miasma of the internet. The big agencies, he said, are struggling to “let go of old ideas”. He noted that the pursuit of profit may see clients laden with junior account managers, or distracted from client objectives.

His agency will also charge clients differently that the market standard. The fee for media space and the resulting kickback is more suited to “the 1960s when performance measurement wasn’t based on business metrics”. Instead, AIP's rates will be tied to performance.

He concluded: “There are lots of businesses for which an agency charging a percentage of media isn’t right for them – a retainer or a fee that is tied to performance indicators. If that’s what a potential client needs and we really believe in their business and our ability to make that business more successful, we become a business partner and invest in the business both financially and as a media buying team.”

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