Double Standards - 'Media agencies need to be comms specialists'

campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 31 May 2012 08:00AM

As clients demand truly integrated communications solutions at a cheaper price, media agencies have had to adapt their offering and work closer with creative shops.

Verica Djurdjevic, managing partner, Phd

Verica Djurdjevic, managing partner, Phd

VERICA DJURDJEVIC, MANAGING PARTNER, PHD

- As the industry has become more complex very quickly, do clients look to their media agencies to offer more consultancy advice than before?

While the media landscape has become more complex, the demands on a client's time are as varied and extensive as ever; media is still only a small part of their day job. Agencies now have to package and sell their recommendations like consultants: it's about prioritising new opportunities and ensuring that everything links back to objectives, strategy and sales. It's no longer enough to push media firsts; all recommendations now have to pass the "so what?" test. And, as the level of coverage about media in the business pages increases, we also have to act as consultants to help our clients manage internal conversations about media strategy with board members and senior stakeholders.

- When pitching for new business, what extra criteria are clients looking for?

Integration, evaluation and content creation are just three of the common themes that appear more often. The deciding factors are still about people, though: clients want smart people who have the right knowledge, skillset and attitude to help them drive their business forward. And if those people can also decipher the hidden criteria in the pitch brief, that makes it all the better.

- How has the relationship between client and media agency changed over time?

The biggest difference is the number of stakeholders within the client organisation that agencies now have contact with. In the past, we only had one or two key points of contact, whereas now we also deal with a huge variety of teams, from insight to IT. We have skills and capabilities that answer a number of questions and issues across the client's business, and that means in some cases we are also agents of internal integration.

- Are clients increasingly looking for their media agency to interact more with or collaborate with their roster of creative and digital agencies?

The desire and drive for agency integration is as strong as ever from a client's perspective. This can raise some tensions, though: agency collaboration can involve honest debate and even conflict to get to a great strategy or campaign idea, and some clients shy away from this reality. Equally, the best levels of integration come when the client plays an active role in the process; happily, many clients have realised this and are playing their part too.

- How have media agencies had to adapt to ensure they are delivering what clients really want?

There are some obvious areas where agencies have had to move fast and adapt their planning and output accordingly - data-driven planning and campaign analytics are just a couple of examples. There is also an ongoing task of constantly reviewing and adapting the basics for each client. We are in a process of continuous refinement, trying to find a better way to make presentations and reporting more useful and more insightful for clients.

- As clients look to their media agencies to offer up a panacea for their business problems, is this something agencies are willing to embrace or can this cause tension?

Agencies can, and should, be part of the team that addresses business problems as they arise, and working with a business issue or question can often lead to better solutions than working with straightforward communication objectives. Tensions only arise when the client does not play their part in bringing their knowledge or understanding of other influencing factors to the solution. Clearly, media and comms strategies are very rarely the true panacea for business problems, and other key factors are often outside the influence of the agency teams. It is, therefore, vital that clients take ownership of the final recommendation.

SUKI THOMPSON, FOUNDING PARTNER, OYSTERCATCHERS

- As the industry has become more complex very quickly, do clients look to their media agencies to offer more consultancy advice than before?

Clients are looking for much more strategic thinking from their agencies. Media agencies need to be true communications specialists and sit at the top table with the lead creative shops. The strategy and planning part of their role is becoming more and more important.

- When pitching for new business, what extra criteria are clients looking for?

They are looking for the smartest thinking that can help drive their business. Principally, it's about the people - both their quality of thinking and how well they will fit with the client.

- How has the relationship between client and media agency changed over time?

Media agencies are becoming ever more important to help clients keep up with the fast-changing landscape and stay ahead of the game, including all things digital. Media agencies' skills in this area are critical and it requires them to be involved much earlier in the communications process than in the past. They should be helping to drive the process, not just executing it.

- Are clients increasingly looking for their media agency to interact more with or collaborate with their roster of creative and digital agencies?

It's imperative that the leading media, creative and digital agencies all work together with joined-up thinking. Clients don't want three different sets of ideas and friction. They need truly integrated thinking and plans. The best media agencies work well with the other lead shops to help achieve this. Clients need to make sure they include their media agencies early on in the campaign development process.

- How have media agencies had to adapt to ensure they are delivering what clients really want?

Gone are the days of media agencies dragging their knuckles along the ground and talking about the bottom line only, but they now need to be able to sit at the top table and provide real strategic value at all levels of the organisation. Like the best creative agencies, the leading media shops have adapted with the times and kept abreast of new technologies and customer touchpoints. Clients will go to digital specialists if their principal agencies have not developed strong thinking in this area.

- As clients look to their media agencies to offer up a panacea for their business problems, is this something agencies are willing to embrace or can this cause tension?

Often, the best solutions are not just a standard media buy. This can create tension with the different agencies and the client. There are now many more options to a business marketing challenge. Clients need grounded insight based on clear recommendations and confidence that their agencies can deliver the best effective solutions. At the end of the day, great clients deserve great agencies, and collectively they can create great strategies and work.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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