Tom Denford
By Tom Denford
Oct 21, 2014 3:43:30 PM

A New Definition Of Media


In the second of a four-part series exploring the need to re-invent media, Tom Denford explains why a bigger, bolder definition of media lies at the heart of the opportunity for brands to seek greater value.

One of the reasons why marketers need to get smarter at media is that the definition of what media actually is – as used by agencies and advertisers – has evolved significantly beyond paid-for placements.

Media now includes consumer connections through earned media, owned media assets and partnerships. WPP’s MediaCom, for example, has rebranded itself as “The Content and Connections agency” echoing marketers’ language designed to drive better integration of the message and the medium.

This makes managing media even more complex for marketers. Some have responded by investing in in-house media talent, recruiting great agencies and modernising their processes. Many others lag behind and are now playing catch up to get back control of their media investments, which have been too long neglected and effectively handed over to external agencies to manage.

It’s been tough for marketers because the agency response to complexity has been consolidation. Media agencies have merged to the point where its hard to buy media around the world without going through one of six global media agency networks.

Achieving competitive advantage in media by selecting a great agency is harder because most brands of a certain size now only have six major agencies to choose from. And at least some of them will have to be ruled out because they are already working for competitors.

This makes the three levers of best practice media management in the digital age: Transparency, Talent and Tech.

Pricing is no longer the critical discriminator between agencies. Consolidation of media agencies (and their client billings) has forced down prices. In most media channels, excluding digital, the gap between the highest and lowest price is narrower than ever. This means that for marketers, competitive advantage in media comes less from pricing and these days more from talent, tools and innovation.

Transparency means getting full visibility over the media prices being paid. This requires marketers to have direct relationships with at least their top five media vendors by spend. It also extends to having full transparency of the agency resources available and knowing exactly who’s working on your business, how much of their time and paying for those people in accountable ways.

Talent means getting the best people working on your account and is far more important than a couple of points off the price you pay for TV ad spots. Competitive advantage now comes from having the best people developing communications ideas that connect with consumers in the most meaningful ways.

Tech means being on top of an increasingly technology driven industry, be it the management of data to develop insights, sharing of best practice or buying optimisation. Marketers need to make sure they are investing in the right technology solutions in these areas to ensure they are making the most efficient use of the vast data available at each stage.

This article was originally published in The Internationalist on 1-Oct-2014