Tom Denford
By Tom Denford
Nov 6, 2014 2:37:36 PM

Why Change Is Needed


In the final part of his series on the Re-Invention of Media, Tom Denford takes a look at why change is needed...

Digital demands that media change its old, inefficient systems and the future of marketing looks very different.

The way the media landscape works now is flawed in so many ways. Programmatic, for all its demonization by many auditors and consultants, is a perfectly sensible response in principle to the marketer’s need to optimize the costs of an intangible commodity like media.

The act of buying media is a linear, financial management process with lots of admin and information transfer involved. It isperfectly suited to automation and computer optimization. If you were to invent the media agency today you wouldn’t start off by renting swathes of premium mid town office space, fill it with well-paid middle class college grads and then try to organise them into a complex, linear money-management process.

Most media agencies are now inefficient organizations full of generally under-skilled and often over-paid people trying to do a job which computers are frankly better equipped to do more accurately.

The human element is not surplus to requirements, it’s just thathumans can add the most value in managing the “machine’s” inputs, by devising insight and strategy and decoding its outputs via data analysis to determine improvements, rather than performing the transactional processes themselves.  Not to mention the simple human interactions required to serve and manage clients well.

The advent of programmatic media buying and the other changes in the media trading environment now allow smart marketers focus on maximizing the output of their agency resources. They should demand new investment from their agencies in strategic talent, trained to create the valuable insight and strategic inputs for the machines and to make sense of the vast data outputs that automation provides.

In an increasingly data-fuelled industry, this will change how agencies and marketers interact, putting media, not creative at the heart of a careful balance of science and art.

To take full advantage of this opportunity, marketers need to be able to converse with media people and understand more of the technical landscape and how modern media agencies work and will add value.

In a decade’s time when all this change has washed through the system and all (or at least most) marketers are once more in control of their media budgets, the industry will look very different.

Marketers will have much more control of their media dollars than ever and they will be far more proactive about decision-making. The presence of a marketing director or CMO at a media meeting will not be a rarity but something that is increasingly common.

In fact, the most successful senior marketers will probably have a background in media and be data savvy, “creative engineers”, able to dive deep into the automated buying processes that dominate their spend, while also understanding and encouraging the creativity required to make these buys as effective as possible.

They will rely less on a single giant media agency to service them but will instead have built a more bespoke roster agency solutions – often cherry picking from across the big marketing service groups – to ensure their requirements are precisely matched and deliver competitive advantage.

Successful media agencies will look more like consulting businesses, they will be more nimble, their expertise will be clearer and their tools and brands will be more clearly differentiated.

The scale of a media agency (billings and geographical reach) will become far less important because buying will almost all be done via technology solutions and most brands will have adopted media buying controls utilizing SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions that have been customised for their needs.

Many traditional media and creative agencies will have merged to reduce the pressures on overhead and to pool talent and resources, as marketers increasingly demand integrated solutions.

A few major global brands will have even “clubbed together” to created their own technologies, circumventing their traditional media agencies completely.

The work to deliver this future is already underway. Smart marketers will already be working on putting in place the tools and talent they need both internally and with their agency partners to ensure that they benefit every step of the way.

Many of the changes required are about managing the detail, ensuring that what’s promised is delivered and in understanding the platforms that are delivering brand messages.

The bottom line is that marketers can no longer rely on a big picture approach, they need detailed media skills more than ever to succeed.

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