Media agencies need to stand up and recognise and promote the value, knowledge and skills they offer, and not act like they have battered housewife syndrome. This is the strongly held view of Carat Johannesburg managing director, Celia Collins.
“Sometimes media agencies act as the battered housewife syndrome, and say ‘oh we couldn’t ask for anymore, because we’ve been pushed and we’ve got to’ and we undo ourselves. Instead of saying, ‘no, we do very good work, this is what we believe we are worth’ and making sure we have clients who are aligned with that.
“To be underpaid and play the battered housewife syndrome, is just going to get you nowhere. We accept less, we’re then not aggressive enough to make sure we’re making revenue, and it’s a major problem we’ve gotten into. We see it as undercutting each other, but it’s just that we’re so desperate to please everyone that we just undercut ourselves,” she explains.
Revenue generation and small margins remain challenges for media agencies. Offering out of scope services is one way for businesses to garner some extra income.
Dentsu Aegis, for example, has The Story Lab, a content creation and distribution business, which falls far out of the realm of a traditional media agency’s offerings. Working with local content producers or acquiring global rights, the agency group is able to sell on that content to clients.
“It’s reinventing ourselves to ensure that we’re the owners of what is being put out there,” explains Collins.
She stresses that agencies shouldn’t be scared of asking clients for more money if the jobs they are doing are out of scope.
Another challenge, which Collins points out, is the lack of skilled media agency people on the continent.
“We don’t do ourselves any favours in trying to get people into our industry. Sometimes we take people because we are so desperate and they are not suited for the industry,” she says.
Asked whether consultancies are a threat to media agencies, Collins believes they are only a threat if agencies allow them to be, as agencies don’t continually upskill their staff.
Tips for doing business in Africa
“One of the biggest misconceptions that I find when companies want to go into Africa is, they feel they can take a South African model and dump it into any country, which is not the case at all,” says Collins.
She stresses that things are done differently in each country, and understanding their culture is crucial.
“Take time to build one on one relationships and understand their culture, as there are nuances in each market,” she emphasises.
Own office versus affiliates?
Asked whether it is better for an agency to set up its own office in an African country or use an affiliate who is already on the ground, Collins says it depends on the market.
Dentsu Aegis Group starts with affiliate agreements and after two to three years of doing business with and upskilling the affiliate team, if there is a match, then the Group will buy a portion of the affiliate business.
“It’s looking for and being flexible to operate in different ways in different countries,” she comments.
Once an affiliate becomes part of the Dentsu Aegis Group, it goes onto a global centralised system, which allows a person anywhere in the world to track the activities and business of that affiliate.
Fundamental shifts in agencies
Collins identifies three key trends that are going to shape the agency of the future.
Firstly, “the buying function within agencies is fundamentally going to change”. Automation will lead to a situation where people check contracts, but there will be no manual buying or loading. “So buyers need to reskill themselves almost into implementation planning,” she adds.
Secondly, “a global trend in implementation planning is investments, ROI and productivity”. Accountability is becoming more important in this space, and implementation planners need to do more thorough, knowledgeable work on a more frequent basis to deliver for clients.
Thirdly, from a strategic role, “media and digital strategies need to be 100% integrated”.
Dentsu Aegis is currently doing a lot of work around viewability metrics to try and increase the value that it offers clients.
Winning the award and her leadership style
During the interview, Collins also explained what winning the Media Agency Legend Award means for her, and touched on her leadership style.