The question of value: UM London on what really matters in media
The novelist, William Gibson, once said, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed”. This very much reflects my own optimism and frustrations around the state of play in media as we enter a new yearly cycle.
We are lucky enough to work in media, to be able to harness the changes shaping the future of the business; in theory, we are entering a golden era for our industry.
Media is increasingly the driving force in helping brands open up new ways to connect with consumers. The way a brand performs in media is arguably more important than the message itself. The convergence of traditional, new, social and personal media increases the demand for bespoke experiences. We now have the capability to leverage expertise across many platforms simultaneously and collaborate, with a variety of partners, to make staggeringly innovative campaigns that deliver extraordinary results.
But, as the year draws to a close, are we ready to shift into a new media paradigm, defined by what really matters? Unfortunately, our answer as an industry is, ‘probably not’.
It’s a sad irony that as the landscape becomes more engaging, connected and accountable, the wider industry is seemingly more than ever, obsessed with the price of media, rather than the value of media. Much of our industry remains trapped in its past success, in a low-innovation cycle, responding rationally to incentives, or demands, to provide incremental improvements.
In a challenging economic environment this is natural, especially given the legacy of the media discipline. Too many stakeholders still view media as a supply chain commodity and are focused on bottom-line costs. However, the race to the bottom between agencies continues to harm the prospect of media being viewed differently. It’s an unsatisfactory situation, where agencies, through their own business models and pitch behaviours, continue to undermine the wider value of media.
So, in the evolving media world it’s incumbent on media agencies to elevate the conversation about the potential of media. Showing senior business leaders that media is as important as other variable costs, like new product development, distribution and promotions, seems increasingly appropriate. Only by sparking their curiosity will they ask the right questions of their own organisations.
I believe there are three big themes that will gain momentum through 2014, and hopefully add dimension to the way media is viewed. First, content carves out the quickest path to hearts and minds and when done well it produces measurable results that move brands forward. In the on-going digital, device and social revolution, storytelling will become a strategic communications imperative. Second, innovative methods of fusing media data with brand sales data will enable media decision making that creates competitive business advantage. Finally, the rapidly evolving customer journey means that more focus needs to be placed on the integration of channels and how this will drive enhanced point of sale performance.
Of course, the closer we align the strategic benefits of media to business success, the quicker we can roll out new operating partnerships, where we genuinely become an extension of our clients’ marketing teams. We can also create more appropriate payment for performance remuneration models, where we are rewarded for our contribution to brand growth, and not savings on an already discretionary media investment.
When thinking about the future of our business in this context, big really doesn’t mean best. The future belongs to the more insightful, innovative and agile agencies. There are parallels with other industries, like film, we can learn from. Steven Spielberg once said Hollywood would implode if it continued to focus on bigger and bigger blockbusters. The resistance of the old guard major movie houses to change their production and distribution model is at odds with the reality of consumer behaviour and demand. It has left the door open to a new breed of challenger, like Netflix, with disruptive models fuelled by data and technology.
In our future business, it’s the agencies that continue to innovate their proposition, in partnership with clients that are most curious about how media can help build their brands, which are most likely to succeed. That’s why, at UM, we believe Curiosity Works.
2014 Prediction in five words
Fortune will favour the brave
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