“This media game is a very unique skill. It’s a niche set of expertise that you need around the art-science dynamic of media. It’s very unique and it should be more valued because it’s so specialised. It’s not a skill you can just expect somebody coming out of university to pick up and run with it, you need the knowledge and experience.”
This is the view of new Vizeum Johannesburg managing director Byron John, who sees a change in the agency model on the horizon.
“We’ve undervalued ourselves because we’re not quantifying the hours that we deliver to the client, so we just package it as some sort of deal, be it a retainer fee, commission structure or FTE model … The model needs to change and I think we’ll get to a point where we start charging for the expertise, a consultation type of approach,” he elaborates.
Limited talent pool
A further challenge that John identifies for agencies is a very limited talent pool, making it extremely difficult to find the right personnel for the job.
Managing through dynamic complexity is another challenge he mentions.
“Things are always changing and the complexity of media is also growing in terms of scope. It’s partly because of the evolving digital realm, as new technologies keep infiltration the media ecosystem and new concepts and lingo emerges” he explains.
John is a fan of programmatic, but cautions that we are still in the infant stages of it and there is still much to learn.
“The more it can connect the dots holistically then the more value it’s going to have. For now, we are still figuring things out. Ad fraud, ad blockers, meaningful measurement and who the audiences are that we are talking to, we’re still learning how it all works,” he says.
“The tech is a great start in the right direction to making it easier to buy media, but I don’t think it ends there, it’s just a stepping stone towards keeping up with an evolving media ecosystem without leaving behind the fundamental principles of how consumers consume communications,” he explains.
John’s top three trends for media agencies
Data, agency work and the client’s bottom line
But it is not all challenging. John sees two distinct opportunities for agencies to excel and succeed; smart data usage, and linking agency work with the success of clients.
“If agencies can harness data and start to make it meaningful, then they become incredibly powerful as a partner … Another opportunity is to correlate the impact of what we do as media practitioners (through the line) with the effects they have on a client’s sales and revenue. It’s already happening in Europe and it will become pervasive in South Africa soon, that’s the real opportunity,” he comments.
Vizeum’s shifted positioning
As with the evolving agency landscape, so too has Vizeum’s position in it shifted.
John explains, “Vizeum was previously positioned as a boutique, cutting edge kind of agency, with its own unique media agency style. We still aim to drive an innovative, agile working relationship with clients. But now that we’ve won some massive accounts, the challenge is to remain true to our brand essence. Our aim is to scale our service excellence but at the same time we believe it’s very important you don’t lose what makes you, you”.
For the past decade, Dentsu Aegis Group has been building up its Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) network, going into countries and buying agencies to incorporate into the network.
“That network element was a huge selling point to the big clients that we won accounts for, and possibly why we’ll win future pitches because our network in SSA is so strong,” he says.
Asked what it takes for a media agency to win a big account, John believes it ultimately comes down to cost, capabilities and chemistry.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8