Media agencies need to start standing up for themselves and shift the prevailing narrative of media being a cost to a crucial vehicle for growth and investment, according to Mark Patterson, APAC CEO at GroupM.
Speaking on a panel regarding the future of media at Campaign360 a week ago, Patterson said media agencies have “a fantastic record of changing our business at speed”, which is exactly what is required in today’s splintered digital media landscape.
“We need to change the narrative,” he said. “Media expertise on the client side has changed dramatically. The primary conversation with top-level management is now about media and data, getting media up the agenda.”
While that may be the case, Jee Seon Park, media and digital director at L’Oreal, said the difficulty still lay in changing the mindset of the c-suite about the opportunity in media spend.
“For them, it’s easy to cut the media budget because they see it as a cost,” she explained. “For L’Oreal, we see media as an investment, and one we want to protect when we make cost decisions.”
However, there is work to do on both sides. Park pointed out that agencies are sometimes “difficult to engage” with on this topic because the language of media is not always clear in explaining its business value.
With technology able to drive transparency and accountability in the media industry, Jo Flint, managing director of APAC agency business at Google, said media is “a criticial investment in growth”. Additionally, clients moving media in-house remains as challenging a prospect for most as ever, despite the constant chatter.
“With tech, it comes down to ‘do I build it or do I buy it?’ These are really tough decisions on what you want to own and what you outsource,” Flint said. “So yes, some clients have gone in-house, but few clients really have the capacity to do so.”
Patterson said despite it being the time for media agencies to shine, he still doesn’t believe they have enough direct c-suite contact. Moreover, finding the right people to handle the “broader business conversations” alongside the media discussion is no mean feat.
“It’s difficult to find leaders who can have a c-level conversation, understand the whole digital ecosystem, talk business, and talk brands,” he listed. “They’re at a premium; we have to bring them in.”
“We have a healthy paranoia about our leadership positions. Agencies must be more aggressive to performance manage people into new roles, or out of the business, to keep up.”
For Flint, it is about empowering the next generation of leaders to take decisions and ownership early, so they are experienced when the time comes to step up.
“There are a million different training programmes, but you don’t learn until you do it,” she said. “Empower your teams to take a little risk. Give them a little budget to do so. Only by doing that do you create a culture of learning.”