Tom Denford
By Tom Denford
Oct 13, 2014 3:46:23 PM

The Re-Invention Of Media


For far too long marketers may have overlooked media, but expertise in this area will define competitive advantage and success for brands over the next two years. In a new four-part series, Tom Denford explains the need to re-invent media...

Media is important. Perhaps that goes without saying, given that it typically accounts for 70% or more of most brands’ marcoms spend.

However, most marketing directors still spend less than 10% of their time on media and our work with some of the world’s biggest advertisers shows that companies are still not investing sufficiently in the resources to manage the scale of their investment in media.

This lack of interest in media is perhaps understandable because media has historically been too technical and cost-focused, all black boxes, trading smoke and mirrors and too often lacking in standout creativity.

However in recent years, media has come centre stage thanks to key changes to the marketing landscape – notably the rise of digital for starters, of which more later. These key changes mean that lack of technical media expertise should no longer be acceptable in well-run marketing organisations.

What will be all be critical for marketers to grasp in the next few years will be improved agency management, better understanding of digital and data driven media, improved brief writing and a secure source of expert knowledge in their media agency planners.

We believe that smart marketers will be paying greater attention to three key areas to ensure that they benefit from the competitive advantage that media can bring: Attention to technology, talent and transparency.

Media as a discipline is now very broad, incorporating more than the simple planning and buying of advertising space. At the same time, the traditional processes of planning and buying media have grown increasingly complex and media agencies have become harder to manage as a result.

This has meant that a big chunk of a marketer’s success now depends on being well educated and proactive at investing in media and finding the most productive ways to work with their media agencies.

Unfortunately, our experience is that the quality of media management talent within marketing organisations has sadly deteriorated in the last 10 years just at the time when it should be getting better and better. The key drivers of this decline has been a whittling away of the ability to hire good media talent (in part thanks to the recession) and the transformative impact of the digital media revolution making many of the traditional Media Director skills somewhat out-dated.

“In the last six months the conversations we’ve been having with global advertisers have been evolving significantly away from cost saving initiatives to maximising value delivery...”

In the gap between an average marketer’s skill set and the increased complexity of the financial transaction in media, procurement leaders have taken control of many media decisions. The benefit has been that they have brought much needed diligence and discipline to media decision-making but this has come at the cost of forcing many brands to view media as a cost to be managed downwards rather than an investment for company growth and success. This exists in cases where procurement are incentivised to seek savings from spending rather than improving the performance of company investments.

Fortunately, with the upswing in the economy, business attitudes are changing and media is increasingly being looked at as a powerful growth driver, especially for efficiently connecting brands to consumers through digital channels.

In the last six months the conversations we’ve been having with global advertisers have been evolving significantly away from cost saving initiatives to maximising value delivery; it’s a very welcome gear-shift from our perspective and one which hopefully shows an increased interest of marketing departments to invest in resources required to improve media value delivery.

These post-recession objectives are about how marketing (and the company’s marketing service agencies) can work together to generate top-line growth by maximising the value delivered from marketing spend, making every dollar work harder to achieve more with the same. This can be achieved thanks to improvements in data-fuelled targeting, standout creative thinking and flexibility in media budgets to respond quickly to changes in consumer behaviours.

This focus on growth and value is great news but it is occurring at a time when media is about to get really complicated and change yet again, with the advent of automated buying, the prospect of further agency consolidation and the recent ad-revenue breakthroughs for tech giants such as Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter which are now joining Google as successfully developing ad-funded revenue models.

These are all forces for good, provided that the marketer is well skilled to know how to exploit them. The bottom line is that marketers are going to have to get really smart at media in the coming few years; those that are quick to embrace this reality will be able to build and maintain competitive advantage in marketing.

This thinking lies behind the decision to found ID Comms back in 2009. We believed that as the media world became more complex, marketers would increasingly need help making the right decisions about their media investments to maximise value return for their investments. We knew that they would not always be able to rely upon their media agencies’ independence for that guidance as media buying agencies were becoming more closely involved in the “sell” side of the business.

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