Erica Gunning ponders how the changes in the traditional media have affected media agencies.
It’s no secret that the traditional media industry is going through disruptive changes affecting its revenue streams. Who do we blame? Some blame the rise of digital media, which has agencies rapidly trying to expand their offerings and sometimes promising capabilities they are unable to deliver. Others blame their agency partners at an already-crowded marketing table even more. No doubt the economy has been the biggest culprit, but there’s also a more troubling trend consumer spending decline.
This has marketers reaching a crossroads. It has led to quarterly planning versus annual strategies. Hence, we need to make sure we worry even more about return on investment and bonus. But we also need to look towards the long-term and get away from ‘short-termism’.
There is a need to ’reinvent the way we do media for the new environment’. We need to stop recycling staff across agencies and encouraging the growth of freelancers in the media industry. Doing this is resulting in a decline of media resources instead of growing the industry resources to accommodate the new pace of media. We need to encourage media staff to start transferring knowledge and to start paying back by getting involved in the industry through industry bodies like the AMF.
So is this the end? Clients are paying us less, clients are spending less, the role of media is no longer taking the lead in communication and there are not enough of us to get the work done. I don’t know whether to be excited or terrified – I have decided to be excited!
The media industry has always been challenging and you fight to have a voice. Nothing has actually changed; we just need to show our value and stop apologising. It is a new world defined by technology and consumer control. Let’s start telling that ‘transmedia’ story with client’s brands. Let’s stop looking at traditional models of servicing clients and develop contracts and teams that are about partnerships. If the client partnership is about driving costs, then that’s how you structure the team.
Media agencies must stop throwing all our services into all contracts, and not charging for them. Let’s invest the money we spend in freelancers in training our staff to do the job. This way we will stop the resource drain in the industry. AMF Masters is a good example of growing talent in the industry by offering bursaries to develop skills.
Consumers today have a complex relationship with media. This relationship poses challenges as to how and where to engage with consumers. Let’s mobilise them, create experiences, start conversations and do it every day. Everything is powered by media and we are the people who know how to make sure consumers get the message. Make intelligence and analytics everything that will allow you to move at the pace our consumers consume media.
Successful media agencies will move well beyond campaigns and they will start developing their own media platforms that have longevity in building brands with a long term view. Stop thinking in terms of audience and think about a community of participants: they are your medium. Find ways to integrate; become curators and learn co-creation. Embrace and master new technologies quickly: you are working on the reinvention of print ads on the iPad, right?
Media delivers clients with ideas and value for their money. Ideas do not mean messages or ads, they mean interaction: engagement, connection, community through media. Intelligence is a key part of media accountability, as in you need to collect, report, analyse and predict. If you don’t have robust analytics, you’re in big trouble. Then there is the development of media commodities; conversation should be about value, not purely the lowest price.
I hope you are excited to be part of the new engaged media industry. There is nothing traditional about media anymore.
Erica Gunning is MD of MEC Global. Here, she writes in her capacity as chair of the Advertising Media Forum in Johannesburg.
This column was first published in the August 2012 issue of The Media magazine. Members of the Advertising Media Forum contribute a regular column on issues in the media agency business.
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