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Capability gaps are creating challenges for large advertisers, WFA research finds

The report reveals that not only is there a growing focus on brand safety, but also the ethical dimension of investment

New research by the World Federation of Advertisers, in conjunction with Ebiquity, has revealed that multinational advertisers are set to face considerable challenges in delivering their media aspirations due to a disparity in the breadth and depth of skills required by senior leaders to meet demand.

The research identifies these challenges as a capability gap, born from the issue that as the role of media leadership is expanding, new responsibilities are being included within its remits.

The report, titled The Capability Gap, reveals that not only is there a growing focus on brand safety, but also the ethical dimension of media investment. Now, instead of simply being tasked with placing investments that deliver a positive ROI for the brand, media leaders also need to consider whether these are the right choices for the environment, consumers and society at large.

Breadth and depth of skill will be required in this environment going forward, with all media leaders agreeing that being ‘T’ shaped, not specialized, is critical to surviving in the global media role today.

How was the research conducted?

  • The Capability Gap talked to 52 global media leaders, representing advertisers with a total ad spend of more than $40bn globally.

  • Respondents represented multiple industry sectors including alcohol, automotive, financial services, FMCG, healthcare, luxury and technology.

What does it reveal?

  • The five key areas where many are struggling include e-commerce and shopping, finding the right balance for in-housing and partners, and managing the challenges of environmental, social and governance agenda, as well as the more long-term challenges of measurement and transparency.

  • The biggest gap (57%) – the percentage points difference between the respondents who were satisfied with their performance and those who believed the issue was important – was in the area of e-commerce and shoppable media.

  • The next biggest gap – 51% – was found in media measurement, attribution and market mix modeling. 94% percent of respondents said they believe this area will be very important over the coming years. This gap shows that the age-old question of ‘what works’ has not been solved by the advances in digital technology – and the degradation of third-party cookies only enhances the challenge.

What do leaders need to consider?

  • Media is being viewed more than ever as an engine for top-line growth, and 81% of respondents believe that media will occupy greater strategic prominence than in the past.

  • Meanwhile, in a further sign that media leadership is being treated more strategically, 75% of respondents predict that media management will have more decision-making authority than it has done in the past.

  • Fortunately, team sizes are expanding and the WFA finds that global teams have increased by around 60% compared to the previous survey conducted on this theme (in 2017).

  • All of this is encouraging many to review their media model on a more regular basis, with 37% looking at it either annually or more frequently, and a further 33% doing so every two to three years.

  • In doing so they will need to address capability gaps – those areas where satisfaction with the current approach falls short of the level of importance it has been assigned by media leaders.

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