In 2003, Initiative implored us to "expect more" and ZenithOptimedia started flying the "ROI agency" flag. Now MediaCom is ditching its "closer to clients" appendage in favour of "People first. Better results".
Positionings are easy to poke fun at. They're so bland, so earnest, so naff, an open invitation to take the mickey. Yet, just like extravagant annual shindigs in a sun-drenched part of Europe, big global media networks increasingly feel that they should have one.
MediaCom is tweaking its identity at a critical time for the network.
In North America, it's just lost part of Procter & Gamble's $2.5 billion planning business to Starcom MediaVest and Carat. And its future is uncertain while a "for sale" sign hangs over its parent company, Grey Global.
But Jane Ratcliffe, the joint managing director of MediaCom in London, is quick to defuse any suggestion that the new positioning relates to any of the wider issues facing MediaCom. "The timing is coincidental; it's not a premeditated thing," she claims.
So what exactly does "People first. Better results" mean? "It is not a radical change," Ratcliffe says, emphasising that MediaCom's processes and treatment of staff and clients is unaffected. "It's reminding us about what we have been doing. It's about clients, effectiveness and accountability."
What do rivals think? Colin Gottlieb, the chief executive at OMD Europe, describes "People first. Better results" as "reassuringly obvious". "It's a bit like a doctor saying, 'We'll look after you'," he says. Gottlieb, whose network's first global positioning, "Insights. Ideas. Results", was adopted in 2002, believes these appendages are primarily for internal benefit.
"It acts like corporate glue," he says. "The amazing thing when we introduced 'Insights. Ideas. Results' was the speed at which all the markets started to use it on their e-mails. Individual offices attach an importance to it, but I don't think clients give a toss."
MediaCom has always been strong in Europe, particularly in Germany and the UK. Yet compared with most of the other big networks, it is not as strong as it could be in the US or Asia. Gottlieb says: "One of the biggest issues for MediaCom is that it isn't really a global network in terms of territories."
This marks the first time MediaCom has had a global positioning - "closer to clients" was occasionally used in offices farther afield than Europe, but there was no one single guiding line to unite the network's 103 offices.
Ratcliffe points out that the sentiment of "closer to clients" will still exist. "You can't deliver better results unless you're closer to clients," she says. "'People first. Better results' enhances what we had, following an analysis of business, including client feedback."
There's also a chance MediaCom saw the latest Media Audits survey on agencies, which canvassed the opinion of 115 advertisers across Europe.
From a range of qualities including "people", "client contact", "strategy", "planning" and "value", "people" scored highest. But agencies scored poorly in key areas such as strategy, briefing on communications options and helping to set "rational" budgets. Clients also indicated agencies need to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Glyn Hughes, the European commercial director at Initiative, accepts there is a case for networks to brand themselves. "We are moving into a world that is more about global campaigns and international co-ordination, so clients are asking agencies for greater cohesion and consistency," he says.
He adds: "We are in the business of selling our respective offers to clients and we need to differentiate ourselves. Perception is reality in this business."
This article was first published on Campaign