Staff Reporters
May 24, 2016

Creative houses lose to media agencies

MEDIA DEBATE: Several major creative or digital accounts have been won by media agencies lately. Is this going to be a trend in 2016? Have creative agencies been lagging behind in investments?

L-R: Nair, David, Bleasdale
L-R: Nair, David, Bleasdale

Leela Nair 

Managing director, Southeast Asia

Increasingly, global advertisers require less local creative input as they centrally manage creative master assets. These assets often require additional localisation to ensure the message is locally relevant. The assets may also need to be produced in different formats that selected media owners require.

The creative agency plays less of a role for some global clients. With a need for speed to market, advertisers want to simplify the overall delivery process. If media agencies can provide one point of contact to manage local asset production and media, this can provide significant efficiency. In countries where the marcomms teams are lean, this solution is very attractive.

The lines between media and creative agencies continue to blur as media agencies offer social media community management, production services and marketing activation. Is it unrealistic to expect that media agencies will manage production as a next step? If creative agencies allow commoditisation of their service, clients are more likely to go down this path in a drive to save money. 

Ranji David

Marketing director
World Federation of Advertisers

It all comes down to the ease of having a single agency take a full-service approach. Considering the investment ratio between creative and media, it makes sense to start from a strong base across media touchpoints and then build the creative piece, particularly with performance clients.

Media houses have adapted to changes with more agility than creative agencies who have struggled to evolve since social media posed challenges to traditional models. Digital puts a different spin to the media-versus-creative debate. Some advertisers think higher-frequency ads are required in the face of new targeting capabilities. While there’s much to debate about the quantity-over-quality approach, this encourages the appointment of media in a lead role, particularly where creative agencies might not be interested in picking up the lower-margin digital work.

In discussions around ‘context versus content’, the emphasis on context means media agencies with a better understanding of digital will move further upstream. But the rise of media at the expense of content has led to problems such as ad blocking and ad fraud. 

Instead of focusing on the agency ‘type’, most WFA members understand that they need to focus on ‘people’. If we continue to lose sight of potential customers, a debate around the sort of agency brands work with will be increasingly meaningless. 

Richard Bleasedale

Managing partner APAC
Roth Observatory 

The short answer is “yes”. Many media agencies offer content development as part of their service offering. This can be compelling to a marketer for several reasons. Media agencies tend to charge less than creative shops. This saving can be reinvested into increasing the media spend. This approach can deliver a more integrated solution, as creative and media agencies tend to work separately. A single source of creative/media execution will improve the speed to market. 

All these reasons are magnified when working with a media owner/publisher, who package up creative services as part of media buying deals.

We also see creative shops being asked by brands to propose media strategy. Coca-Cola with Ogilvy in the US is a recent famous example. Coca-Cola was quoted as saying Ogilvy offered “an alternative perspective on communications strategy”. This search for alternative perspectives is one we are seeing more of.

This is driven by many factors such as marketing budgets, a growing requirement to demonstrate efficiency, speed to market, marketing transformation, business model disruption and talent drain within the sectors.


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