Media: Double standards - Why media's fostering a spirit of collaboration

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 16 April 2010 12:00AM

MediaCom's Stefan Bardega and Pearl & Dean's Mike Hope-Milne on how media owners and agencies are working closer together to deliver results for clients.

STEFAN BARDEGA, managing partner, MediaCom Beyond Advertising

Are media agencies investing enough in developing ways of working better with media owners?

Some are, most aren't. Last year, we set up MediaCom Beyond Advertising to create innovative branded content partnerships with media owners across all delivery platforms. To do this, we had to restructure the entire business, bring in people with different skills, introduce new processes and ways of working, and educate internal stakeholders, clients and media owners alike. What is stopping many other agencies introducing this kind of capability is not lack of desire, in my view, but more a case of active inertia, which is easy to succumb to in a downturn.

To what extent has the downturn and price pressures in the media market put pressure on the health of the relationship between agencies and media owners?

In many respects, I think the recession has actually forced us to work even closer together, not just with media owners but also with our clients. The pressure to deliver more for less often fuels innovation, which can only be achieved by all parties working closely. The outcome may be a trading innovation (eg. cost-per-engagement deals online), a content innovation (eg. distributing clients' content assets to publishers) or some other form of innovation, but, however it manifests itself, it inevitably results in better working relationships.

- How much of a problem is media agencies taking credit for good ideas that come from media owners?

We always try to give credit where appropriate. It's not in our interest to take credit for ideas that aren't ours.

- What's your best recent collaboration with a media agency/media owner?

The cross-platform partnership we developed with ITV for Macleans' (GlaxoSmithKline) sponsorship of Dancing On Ice has been a highlight for us so far this year. It included not only the broadcast sponsorship but also activation across web, mobile and interactive TV. On top of this, we acquired the rights for Macleans and its below-the-line agencies to exploit the Dancing On Ice association in-store in order to support the sponsorship and help strengthen the association in major multiples. A range of rights and assets were secured including tickets to live shows, signed merchandise and ice-skating sessions, which were used by Macleans on a variety of platforms.

With clients sometimes working directly with media owners, how important is it to have a media agency involved in a project?

There are four core areas that a media agency should be involved in. First, helping develop the idea with the media owner. Second, leveraging the agency trading relationship. Third, project management: when you are trying to pull together numerous stakeholders and elements of a deal, the lack of specific project management expertise and resource can often mean a great idea never gets executed properly. The fourth area is evaluation: media agencies' involvement here will ensure you have the right measures in place to guarantee delivery and assess effectiveness.

- Have cross-media client and media owner partnerships really come of age?

I think we are at the spotty, pubescent phase of development, ie. still slightly awkward but a world of opportunity ahead.

Mike Hope-Milne, enterprise director, Pearl & Dean

Are media agencies investing enough in developing ways of working better with media owners?

Compared with ten/15 years ago, media agencies in general are working far more collaboratively with media owners, but we would always like to see more of it. As you would expect, some agencies are more collaborative than others.

- To what extent has the downturn and price pressures in the media market put pressure on the health of the relationship between agencies and media owners?

Last year saw a lot of pressure being put on price for media agencies and media owners alike. I would not say, however, that this has had a negative effect on our relationships. The way we manage our inventory means that if we can afford to reduce our price to take a campaign, we will; if we can't, we won't. So far this year, we have turned away a significant amount of money because the prices were not right; however, this has not affected our working relationships with any of the agencies involved. On the flip side, margins within media agencies were being squeezed long before the recession hit last year. This has meant far more pressure on agency planners' time than there used to be and, in turn, has meant a heavier reliance on media owners to help develop ideas. This has probably been one of the main factors for improved collaboration over recent years.

- How much of a problem is media agencies taking credit for good ideas that come from media owners?

It definitely happens, and dependent on the individual, the agency will either claim joint or sole ownership of an idea. Personally, I do not have a massive issue with this. It is the job of a modern-day media owner to put forward good ideas to agencies. It is the agency's job to filter out the good from the bad and adapt them to fit their client's objectives.

- What's your best recent collaboration with a media agency/media owner?

There are many; however, a good recent example would be working with Newcast (ZenithOptimedia) last year. We developed the world's first 3D audience interactive game in cinema for O2. It was three months of extremely hard work from both sides, but the end result was amazing. We managed to achieve the impossible, which could never have happened without true collaboration.

- With clients sometimes working directly with media owners, how important is it to have a media agency involved in a project?

For any project that has a significant media element to it, we would always prefer to work with a media agency. If you have a productive relationship with an agency, it can be a lot easier than working directly with a client who has limited knowledge of how the media market operates. There are, of course, examples where the opposite is true and an agency can be a barrier to getting good ideas through to a client, in which case we will work with them direct, but this is not our preferred option.

- Have cross-media client and media owner partnerships really come of age?

From our experience, I would say that it has. We have good relationships with most media owners, and regularly pitch cross-media solutions in partnership with other media.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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