Tom Denford
By Tom Denford
Feb 28, 2017 6:19:41 AM

Advertisers Are Failing To Lead On Media


Media is viewed as a complex headache by advertisers who are failing to provide leadership in this critical investment area, according to a new report from media change consultants ID Comms.

The findings of the 2017 Global Media Thinking Survey reveal the poor strategic approaches currently being applied to media investment.

The report, which is based on responses from both advertisers and agencies, shows widespread agreement that advertisers are generally failing to lead on key media decisions.

Agencies meanwhile were criticised for failing to provide strategic support in six key areas including the ability to provide wholly neutral and objective planning services.

The findings are based on answers from 179 respondents including senior marketers from companies with combined annual media budgets of more than $22bn. Agency respondents included all major media agency holding groups as well as some independent media agencies.

Such poor performance comes despite the fact that 97% of those who took part agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “advertisers who take a more strategic and thoughtful approach to media will deliver a stronger marketing performance”.

Advertiser performance in this area is particularly critical because 79% of respondents also believe advertiser marketing teams should be primarily responsible for defining the advertiser’s strategic approach including the media objectives, operating model and KPIs. 

Asked to score performance on a scale of one to five, where five is outstanding and one is unacceptable, the survey found that advertisers fail to meet expectations (a score of three or less) in four key areas; setting clear KPIs for media, having a point of view on ROI for media, having a well established media community internally and leading media decisions from marketing rather than procurement.

Advertiser respondents scored themselves an average of 7% higher on these questions than their agency counterparts but some agency respondents claimed this merely reflected their lack of knowledge. “Capability levels in advertisers are at an all-time low. Desperately needs an injection of smart agency thinkers,” remarked one agency participant.

“The lack of media knowledge inside many of even the largest advertisers is making it harder for them to leverage the opportunities that smart media thinking delivers. This is why many of the best campaigns nearly always come from the same clients. They understand media, work more closely with their agency partners, think strategically and see the opportunities faster. Brands that treat media as a commodity and a cost will never actually get the best return from their media budgets,” said Tom Denford, Chief Strategy Officer at ID Comms.

Download: ID Comms 2017 Global Media Thinking Report 

Other key findings from the survey include:

A complex headache: Agencies and advertisers have vastly different views of the way that advertisers treated media. Asked whether advertisers viewed media on a scale ranging from “a complex headache” (score 1) to “an exciting opportunity” (score 7) agency respondents scored advertisers at 3.2 while advertisers ranked themselves at 4.1.

Buying not planning: Advertisers were viewed as significantly more focused on media buying and efficiency (scoring 3.2) rather than media planning and effectiveness by agency respondents as well as more likely to view agencies as commodity suppliers (score 3.5) rather than strategic partners.

Agency failures: Agency capabilities were viewed as failing to meet expectations of advertisers in six key areas including their ability to provide insight driven strategic planning, having a culture of innovation, provide thought leadership in media, provide neutral and objective planning recommendations, identify relevant data fuelled insight and integrate owned, earned and paid media. The latter was the worst area with advertisers scoring agencies at just 2.4 (where 3 is meets expectations).

“Real strategic leadership on the advertiser side would dramatically improve media performance. The fact that advertisers still have gaps and doubts in this area is a real black mark. Advertisers need to play their part in providing agencies with great media briefs and a process that allows them to do great work that adds value,” said Denford. 

Watch the ID Comms 2017 Global Media thinking Webinar 

Additional responses from individual advertiser respondents include:

“The real struggle inside agencies is between the planner/account teams that want to do a great job and their own version of procurement that is more focused on opaque deals and rebates.”

“There is clearly an opportunity for the both the media agencies and client to improve in all areas.”

“Outstanding media management is when KPIs are embedded into a supervision methodology that is starting from a consumer and company centric media management vision.”

“The key is close collaboration with a clear collaboration model and rules of engagement, governance structure, shared goals and KPIs. Mutual respect is key.”

Additional responses from individual agency respondents include:

“Agencies are trying to do all of these things and have capabilities in all of these areas... Clients, with few exceptions, aren’t set up in terms of briefing and process, to allow agencies to work in the way they should or would like, therefore most of the actual output does not deliver on these items.”

“Media agencies are stuck within the confines that aggressive holding company growth targets create / set for them.“

The system is broken and needs a total reset.”

“Agencies are highly dependent on client culture, involvement of media agency partner within Client marcom team and strategy development, and access to data. Capability levels in advertisers remain at an all-time low. Desperately needs an injection of smart agency thinkers but therein lies the problem.”

About the ID Comms 2017 Global Media Thinking Survey

The ID Comms 2017 Global Media Thinking Survey is the fourth in a series of ID Comms investigations, previous surveys have covered Media Transparency, Media Training and Media Talent.

ID Comms conducted this research between January 16 and February 3 2017, and received 179 responses. The respondents were comprised of Marketing, Media and Procurement professionals with a range of global, regional and local market responsibilities. 74% were Europe-based, 18% were from the US and the remainder representing the rest of the world.

Respondents to this survey represent a wide variety of brands in diverse categories including automotive, financial, pharmaceutical, food and drink, retail, travel, communications, luxury and entertainment, with a combined global media investment in excess of $22 billion.

All major media agency holding-groups and some independent media agencies also participated in this survey.

Findings of the ID Comms 2017 Global Media Thinking Survey were covered in Campaign, MediaPost, Warc, Digital Market, Arabian Marketer, Research Live, Marketing Dive, TheBigSmoke and The Drum.