Memories of Media Men Passed

It’s been a sad week in UK media land. Two of the true originals in our business, Ray Morgan and Tony Vickers passed away.

Ray was Media Director of the full-service agency, Benton and Bowles. He built an outstanding department there by the what now seems obvious step of hiring very clever graduates – this at a time when most media departments were full of people who had rather fallen in to them (I myself graduated to media from a prestigious and much sought after role as agency messenger boy). Ray’s team included such as Richard Eyre (who went on to become CEO of ITV, and now Chairs the IAB), Simon Marquis (ex-Chairman of both Zenith and the National Readership Survey), and Christine Walker (Founder of Walker Media).

When Benton and Bowles was acquired by the US agency D’Arcy to become DMB&B it was assumed that Ray would get the top UK media job. In fact the US parent prevaricated to the point that a deeply frustrated Ray decided to set up on his own, backed by many of his agency’s clients. Ray Morgan and Partners was born, and was in due course acquired by Saatchi and Saatchi. The Media Director there, John Perriss used RMP as the core around which he built the first of a new breed – a media independent owned by a full-service agency. Thus was Zenith born.

It’s interesting to consider what would have happened had the US management of D’Arcy appointed Ray, a full-service agency man to the tips of his toes, rather than sitting on their hands.

Tony Vickers was one of a breed of salesmen who enjoyed a close relationship with the agency buyers and managers with whom he had to deal. Everyone knew him; everyone had time for him.

Many TV sales directors of the time had a certain arrogance – the sort that attaches itself to those selling an over-demanded, under-supplied commodity that enjoyed a monopoly. Tony for many years sold breakfast TV, a day-part which was certainly not over-demanded. He was honest and delivered what he promised – which meant that more money finished up on his station than might have gone there had anyone else been selling it.

Both Ray and Tony were examples of a time when everyone in the media village knew and largely respected everyone else. They operated in an era where personal relationships counted for a great deal. They were larger-than-life characters, one a tough and respected competitor, the other a charismatic salesman. Their time was long ago, of course. Their passing brings down another shutter on an era.

I generally agree with people who accuse those from my era in agencies of looking back through rose-coloured spectacles. There’s nothing more annoying than some old guy banging on about ‘the good old days’ when actually there was so much that was not good. But having said that I can’t help feeling that the sense of camaraderie so much in evidence then is rather missing these days when machines and algorithms dominate.

I wonder whether in 30 years someone will feel a sense of sadness for those golden days when programmatic trading first appeared. Maybe they will; but I doubt it.

As I’ve said before; I was glad I was in it when I was.