Tesco has become the latest heavyweight advertiser to carve out a role in its marketing team dedicated to ensuring it’s getting its money’s worth when it comes to media investments.
Former Mindshare executive Nick Ashley will join the retailer in March as head of media, reporting to group brand director Michelle McEttrick.
“The media landscape continues to be disrupted at pace, and I'm looking forward to building the media team and helping evolve Tesco's approach to media moving forward,” said Ashley on his appointment.
It’s a new role for Tesco and its creation has sent yet another signal to the wider industry that major advertisers are realising the risk that media investments carry.
In its senior marketing team, the grocer has McEttrick who brought with her experience from creative shop BBH and brand building expertise from her time at Barclays and the recently appointed former Unilever executive Alessandra Bellini, who similarly spent her early career within creative agency walls.
But, the understanding from Tesco seems to be that its £90m media output is now simply too important not to have some level of executive oversight dedicated to it.
This has been undoubtedly fuelled by last year’s revelation that one of the biggest benefactors of increased digital spend, Facebook, had been mistakenly giving marketers inflated metrics in return. Such miscalculations were not limited to media owners, with the industry similarly rattled by an admission from Dentsu Japan that it too had been overstating the numbers being handed back to brands.
Meanwhile, in America the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) issued a damming report that claimed to have unearthed evidence of ‘non-transparent business practices’ pervading media buying. Its impact was felt globally and its recommendation was for brands to hire a chief media officer to police transparency and ensure media accountability.
Since then, Airbnb and P&G are just some of the advertisers to have created a role dedicated to improving internal knowledge when it comes to media.
“It’s great to see another major brand investing in hiring a senior executive as guardian of the company's media investments,” said Tom Denford, chief strategy officer at ID Comms, of Ashley's appointment.
“We’ve long advocated for brands to take more control of their media decisions, [so] having Nick Ashley on board will be a huge asset for Tesco. Congrats to them for seeing how important it is these days to have a head of media and hiring a proper talent to that role."
Come 6 March, Ashley – who during his time at Mindshare led the Facebook account, among others – will bring Tesco more internal controls and decision making over how the company invests in media and work with its agency, Mediacom, on helping the wider business to see its considerable spend as an accountable investment in growth, rather than a cost to the business.
“[Ashley] has a proven track record in developing compelling campaigns and his experience will prove invaluable as we continue to transform the Tesco brand,” said McEttrick.
But more importantly, this hire sends out a louder message of intent from advertisers for greater transparency and accountability around where they are putting their media spend.
Airbnb’s chief marketing officer Jonathan Mildenhall is in the midst of hunting the right person to take on the role, recently telling The Drum that on the back of the media scandals from 2016 there is now an “absolute need for clients to ensure that they don’t abdicate any area of marketing to any outside organisation”.
“If there is not transparency and trust and integrity then it really [is] a setback,” he said.
This may, however, add to concerns from the other side on what the future holds.
TrinityP3’s UK chief executive Bill Merrick predicted that as more advertisers hire a dedicated media role, “the future will be more media strategy and planning in house – reducing media agencies to buying agents only.”