Agencies are worried that advertisers are prioritising big media buys and blunt efficiency metrics at the expense of media planning and effectiveness, according to a report.
The impasse sums up the overriding conclusion from an ID Comms study, which is that there is a lack of strategic leadership from both marketers and agency executives. This is despite more and more industry luminaries talking openly about why media shouldn’t be treated as a cost, yet not everyone is practicing what they preach (yet) as the report goes on to reveal.
Asked to score performance on a scale of one to five, where five is outstanding and one is unacceptable, the survey of 179 respondents found that advertisers were viewed as significantly more focused on media buying and efficiency (scoring 3.2) rather than media planning and effectiveness by agency respondents. As worrying as the gap may be, it’s not surprising given that advertisers rate themselves at the half way point between viewing media agencies as a commodity supplier and as strategic partners (score 3.5), whereas agencies expressed greater concern as to how they are perceived, said researchers.
“The lack of media knowledge inside many of even the largest advertisers is making it harder for them to leverage the opportunities that smart media thinking delivers,” said Tom Denford, chief strategy officer at ID Comms.
Most advertisers feel similarly about the issue, with eight in 10 (79%) of those surveyed believing that advertiser marketing teams should be primarily responsible for defining the advertiser’s strategic approach including the media objectives, operating model and KPIs.
“This is why many of the best campaigns nearly always come from the same clients," continued Denford.
"They understand media, work more closely with their agency partners, think strategically and see the opportunities faster. Brands that treat media as a commodity and a cost will never actually get the best return from their media budgets.”
However, there are signs of change; one trend from the last 12 months has been the chief media officer and whether the role key to building a media strategy that can deliver value back to a business in the same marketing can. Airbnb, Procter & Gamble, RBS, Lastminute.com and more either hired a specialist or espoused the need for their peers to take ownership of their media strategies. And yet the consensus from the study seems to be that many advertisers still see leading a media strategy as a “complex headache” rather than an opportunity.
Asked whether advertisers view media on a scale ranging from “a complex headache” (score 1) to “an exciting opportunity” (score 7) agency respondents scored advertisers at 3.2 while advertisers ranked themselves at 4.1.
Part of this may be down to the view that advertisers think agencies aren’t up to scratch in six key areas including their ability to provide insight driven strategic planning, having a culture of innovation, provide thought leadership in media, provide neutral and objective planning recommendations, identify relevant data fueled insight and integrate owned, earned and paid media.
The latter was the worst area, according to the report, with advertisers scoring agencies at just 2.4 (where 3 is meets expectations).
But agencies can’t change on their own. Marketers such as Nissan’s media specialist and general manager for marketing communications across Europe, Martin Moll, have admitted that they need to manage their agencies better, particularly when it comes to briefing, if they are to get the desired result from media budgets. It’s a point that was raised by one unnamed respondent quoted in the report, who argued that clients, “with few exceptions,” are not set up in terms of briefing and process, to allow agencies flourish, and therefore, “most of the actual output does not deliver on these items”.
“Real strategic leadership on the advertiser side would dramatically improve media performance,” added Denford.
“The fact that advertisers still have gaps and doubts in this area is a real black mark. Advertisers need to play their part in providing agencies with great media briefs and a process that allows them to do great work that adds value.”
The findings are based on answers from 179 respondents including senior marketers from companies with combined annual media budgets of more than $22bn. Agency respondents included all major media agency holding groups as well as some independent media agencies.