Marketing Media Planning and Buying Workplace

Brands still need chief media officers – but they don’t know how to train them


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

July 4, 2022 | 5 min read

Half a decade ago advertisers and agencies realized the complete lack of transparency in the digital ecosystem when household brands were found funding terrorist organizations. A new role, the chief media officer, was conceived to solve the problem – however, recent research suggests they’ve since struggled.

Job dog

ID Comms quizzed 45 top staffers in the media, marketing and procurement professions

The fragmentation of digital media has made the job of marketers more difficult. On the one hand, there are more places than ever before to buy media. On the other, there are fewer people with the know-how to actually buy said media. ID Comms quizzed 45 top staffers in the media, marketing and procurement professions – a small sample that nonetheless boasted a hefty combined annual global media investment in excess of $10bn – to learn why they think the chief media officer role remains an important one.

Matt Gill, senior consultant at ID Comms, who helmed the research, points out that those quizzed were increasingly convinced that the appointment of a chief media officer would enhance advertisers’ media knowledge and capabilities. 73% agreed in 2022, compared to 57% in 2019, that the appointment would be a good thing. He cites Mars and LVMH as good examples of brands that have embraced these roles.

But the industry has shown that the hire alone won’t be enough.

Upskilling media staff has been lacking these last few years. Media training quality has reportedly stalled since 2016 and investment levels are still unsatisfactory, the research found. The most urgent gaps were found to be in adtech and martech. Respondents believed that the appointment of bespoke chief media officers could help bridge the current knowledge gap and enable brands to better know what they are buying.

As Gill tells The Drum: “Given the budgets invested in media, it would seem very short-sighted not to invest. It’s important to note, however, that budgets will come from separate ‘pots’ ie media budgets might be set as a percentage of margin, but training budgets will need to be sourced separately.“

Anecdotally, ID Comms’ found that advertisers with a staff member executing a chief media officer role “are far more likely to hold media to higher levels of accountability by raising internal media capabilities within marketing teams.“ 79% of brands without a chief media officer rated their ability to ‘make media more accountable’ as unsatisfactory.

Gill says: “Training is one of the 7Ts that underpin progressive media behaviors in advertising.

“The effort involved (and the talent implications of investing that effort), the need to continually update training materials and the lack of suitable external suppliers are critical impediments. Relying on agencies is also not enough as usually this kind of training is expected as a value add, hence agency effort is low and training is rarely bespoke to the needs of the advertiser. Developing skills such as how to hold agencies to account is not something that agencies can or will provide.“

Many of the responses reflected a long-standing tale of a failure to upgrade investment in training. 85% of media and marketing professionals – though only 50% of advertiser procurement respondents – considered investment levels to be unsatisfactory both within their own organization and across the industry as a whole. Lack of budget was cited as the main reason, followed by an inability to find the right training opportunities and commit time to media training.

Respondents also highlighted that more work needs to go into working out outcomes for channels and tactics, with the industry overdependent on the ROI KPI.

Advertiser respondents also highlighted a need for training in how media agencies work, while 50% of agency respondents highlighted a need for improved advertiser capabilities in running media pitches, indicating dissatisfaction with existing practices.

The qualitative research also provided some interesting analyses of the issue from respondents. They are as follows:

  • “Brand managers are often thrown in at the deep end – they are in charge of media budgets but may not have the media knowledge to best interpret media plans. It can lead to too many rounds of revision of media plans due to uncertainty.”

  • “Media training has often become synonymous with media 101s, which just feel really outdated and made for media planners instead of media through the language of marketers.”

  • “Every advertiser works in their own bespoke way. Therefore training can only ever focus on the high-level principles, which is useful, but it is never directly relevant to ‘how we do it.’”

  • “Media budgets are a large portion of the marketing spend and business outcomes depend on good media decision-making, so it is important to have a role dedicated to the strategic roadmap and vision of media for the company – especially in the rapidly-evolving media landscape where it may be difficult for marketing all-rounders to keep up.“

The full report can be downloaded here.

Marketing Media Planning and Buying Workplace

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