Havas Media and Maxus chiefs debate why media agencies have a ‘perception problem’ and why programmatic marketing triggers advertiser paranoia

Media agencies are victims of a major “perception problem” when it comes to their current capabilities, while the term programmatic trading trigger unnecessary “paranoia” and “anxiety”, according to Havas Media Group’s CEO Paul Frampton and Maxus CEO Lindsay Pattison.

Speaking together in Cannes, at Google’s Creative Sandbox stand, the pair debated these two themes, with both agreeing more should be done to rectify each.

The role of programmatic trading, which is the ability to trade ads in an automated way based on real-time data insights, is playing an increasing role in the overall media plan, but the term itself remains unhelpful, according to Frampton.

“There is a fair amount of paranoia and anxiety around programmatic advertising for the wrong reasons. Many advertisers view it as something agencies are doing that they shouldn’t be, whereas the promise [of programmatic trading] is the ability to be more data driven and reaching the right audiences.

“But there is a lot of anxiety around transparency and viewability – when you hear things like 50 per cent of ads on the internet are not seen – but this is also true for print ads and TV ads. Yet digital is attacked for not being able to deliver stuff traditional media has never been able to deliver,” he said.

Meanwhile both Pattison and Frampton were candid about the misperceptions and short failings of media agencies.

Clients “lag behind” in their perception of what media agencies can now offer, according to Pattison. “There’s nothing I hate more than a client referring to us as media buyers. Media agencies now plan really intensively with huge amounts of authoritative insights and huge amounts of data that help us plan our campaigns and track our consumers and audience better, execute and optimise.

“There is so much more that a media agency can do than buying spots and spaces,” she said.

Frampton agreed, adding that you can tell a lot from how a client constructs its media. “Understanding that is really interesting. I asked a client once how much of her time she spends on media and she said five per cent with the remaining 95 per cent on ‘marketing with a big M’. But when you dug a bit deeper, that ‘ marketing with a big M is all the stuff media agencies already provide – whether its’ understanding customers, data, or thinking about building experiences.

“I think media agencies have a perception problem, are perceived as buyers or brokers of media, as opposed to necessarily consultants who can help with marketing equivalents that they create solutions to.”

However, Pattison said that media agencies must try harder to alter this image of themselves, and one way could be by ensuring they compete better at Cannes Lions.

“We are our own worst enemies. Looking through the Cannes Lions awards and the shortlist for the media entries - 92.5 per cent of the shortlisted entries are from creative agencies which is shocking, But maybe that’s our fault. Maybe we aren’t writing the entries right or creating the video assets in the right way,” she added.

Watch the full conversation in the video above.

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