For as long as most of us care to remember, there’s been a healthy alliance between the tri-party relationship of client, agency and vendor.
The client was the ultimate holder of the purse.
Media vendors worked in every way possible to trump the competition and sell a disproportionate portion of their media wares either with or without the agency’s support. Media agencies played gatekeeper, working always in the best interests of the client to ensure the client’s marketing needs are delivered via the most relevant, effective and cost effective means.
But, the world has changed and the typical purchase pathway for paid media channels is no longer the dominant priority for any media agency. In fact, it’s been that way for a while. However, the future of media agencies has not been so clear to many until perhaps the last 12-18 months or so.
On a number of recent visits to the West Coast, I’ve been both impressed and humbled at the energy, enthusiasm and innovation that exists in companies, large and small, working across the communications environment in that part of the world. It’s interesting to see the likes of Google , Facebook and Apple hiring top marketing and sales talent. Talent that is both comfortable and capable brokering sizable direct deals with clients, some deals spanning three years and many tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
So, where does all of this leave the poor old media agency? Can the big super tanker like media power houses course correct fast enough to understand the speed of change in the industry and also to stay at the heart of the future of media?
From GRPs to addressable media, to likes, loves, tweets, mookies and good old fashioned store data, the media world has never been more complex and yet more simple.
The efforts of our friends in Silicon Valley, Seattle and beyond have worked wonders in putting our industry at the forefront of consumers’ lives in general.
Amongst the dinner party set of Greenwich, CT, the interesting chat over the catered heavy hors d’oeurves is less likely to be the latest corporate banking scandal. Far more interesting is the magic of an industry that can better understand the needs of that very same Greenwich mom who we know shops in Wholefoods , prefers organic purchases, drives a hybrid Lexus, orders her Labrador premium prescription dog food and is looking to book the next luxury break with the kids in February. How the hell did we know to serve the perfectly tailored luxury break promotion at the very latest Caribbean eco-lodge on her i-Pad as she was surfing in the nail spa? And our sytems can really develop and serve a relevant message for her in well under a second? The example isn’t intended to be representative of the world at large, but unlike many of my conversations on a Friday night, it’s both true and interesting.
This very same technological developments have re-affirmed the fundamental role of the (hitherto known as) media agency at the heart of not just the media industry but the very heart of consumer behavior.
Everything in our rapidly evolving world starts with data. But data is just the start. Our ability to better understand, interpret and add intelligent overlay to the relationship between data, consumer touch points and human behavior will dictate our success.
And this success will accelerate through intelligent application of scale. It requires significant investment in resource and systems to offer our client partners the vital independent perspective of how both the individual and collective effect of paid, owned and earned media channels impact consumer behavior, intent or purchase.
It used to be said by some that the acquisition of iconic agency brands by holding companies like WPP sucked the creativity out of our business. I’d like to suggest that the very same acquisition of new innovative businesses by those very same holding companies is breathing desperately needed creativity back into the advertising business.
The only difference this time it that the media agencies hold the keys to the data kingdom.
Only last Friday, a consultant shared their surprise that one of our clients referred to MEC as The Agency and the creative partner as just that. Maybe the tail is starting to wag the dog after all?
Eamonn Store, President of Global Solutions, MECEamonn manages the global aspect of MEC’s flagship global account, Colgate-Palmolive. He is based out of the New York office but spends much of his time traveling MEC’s worldwide network ensuring that MEC is delivering world-class communications this client as well as Xerox, Breil, SwissRe, ABB and ANA and other blue-chip brands. Eamonn is a member of the International Advertising Association and the Institute of Directors.