The Media Agency Revolution

Sometimes revolutions sneak up on you; eras end and no-one even notices until one day you open their eyes and, well who knew?

For ages, boring bloggers (this one anyway) have been going on about the need for change, the coming of the transparent era, how the media agencies’ future resides with planners, how buying will become increasingly automated and on and on.

And guess what, it all seems to be starting to happen.

Many agency leaders would say they’ve been working away in this direction for years. The problem has been these positive changes are subsumed by the behaviour of some bozo somewhere who continues to undermine his colleagues not only by constructing deals designed to feather the agency’s nest over and above the needs of his clients, but also by insisting that all plans are ‘approved’ by the traders.

Slowly but surely the buying end of things is becoming more and more discredited. The small group of mates on both sides of the buy/sell divide is shrinking. In part this goes hand-in-glove with concerns over online placements, driven by the blunt nature of most programmatic methodologies, but don’t forget that the basis of many of these negotiation techniques predates online.

From a front-page story in ‘The Times’ about the misuse of programmatic techniques, through to issues around the importance of valuing context as one piece in encouraging free and responsible journalism, and on to P&G’s restating of the primacy of the client, the era of the blind pursuit of the deal above all else is coming to an end.

Buying is news, and being in the news is not where traders like to be. Questions from senior clients are being asked and too often there are no good answers.

Plus – the machines are taking over. Automation can help improve the efficiency of the buy. Human skills are necessary to write the cut-through plan.

This does not mean that buyers will soon become extinct, rather that the creative deal-making talents of the best will be re-centred on delivering for the client over and above all other considerations.

The quality of thinking by some in agencies has never been in doubt. There are still skilful planners out there (even if too many have been driven out by having their plans mangled by heads of trading). Maybe there aren’t as many as there should be, maybe they’re not yet much of a feature outside the main media markets but build the culture and they will come.

Agencies are still labelled by too many as ‘my media buying agency’. The descriptor unfortunately is a reflection of how many behave, but there is change in the wind.

More pitch briefs are stating the need for effectiveness in communications as well as and alongside pricing efficiencies. Yes, I know it’s just words, and that stating an intention is different from agreeing to pay for something, but the more the agencies continue to push the planning agenda the more clients will come to value the skill.

The grey deal era is coming to an end. Time to shine a light.

  1. There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happening and those who wonder what happened.

  2. Plus ca change…

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