Media: Double Standards - Keeping up with PC and TV buying convergence

Multimedia buying units are the way forward in TV trading. Two AV chiefs talk about challenges they face and the opportunities ahead.

CHRIS ALLEN - head of Vision, MPG Media Contacts

- Why does it make sense to have a team buying visual media rather than just TV?

Logically, a team operating across all Vision formats - TV spot, sponsorship, online video and cinema - will be better placed to generate integrated, innovative and effective solutions for clients. It also engenders a clear understanding that it is not about one medium versus another but, rather, how they can work better together - for example, TV and online video. On a personal level, it provides a greater range and depth of skills, future proofs our offer and, ultimately, makes our jobs more fulfilling.

- How well have media owners responded to the changes you have made?

TV sales teams have also made changes to their structures, so that the expertise that existed in silos is now joined up to provide an integrated solution. This neatly dovetails with our team structure, where we believe that we are the agency that is closer to clients' business. This puts us in a position where we can create solutions that will deliver value where it is needed to create better business results.

- What are the cultural, training and other issues internally?

The litmus test to establish the level of forward-thinking is how readily change is embraced. Fortunately for me, I have an exceptional team who are motivated, passionate and aspire to be at the vanguard of the Vision product. We have a structure of "champions", where each area within Vision is clearly owned by a specialist. This acts as a clear signpost for colleagues and clients, and ensures that we become experts in each field.

- How has the restructure benefited clients?

Our clients are not provided with one-dimensional TV solutions, but rather a multi-layered vision solution. It is crucial that we remain future-proofed and able to embrace the rapidly evolving media landscape. At MPG Media Contacts, we are firm advocates of the craft-overcommodity approach, and having a best-in-breed Vision team gives us the strongest possible platform from which to educate and build bespoke solutions for our clients.

- What developments in 'vision' advertising are you most excited about?

I am eagerly awaiting the launch of product placement later in the year. This will provide advertisers with a more sophisticated means of communicating with their customers and, like other areas within Vision, it will be complementary. It will also provide an additional revenue stream for broadcasters, which will allow them to invest more budget into original, domestically produced content - great news for viewers and advertisers alike.

- To what degree does the tight regulation of television and upfront nature of agency TV deals need addressing?

Regulation is there to protect advertisers, but it should be relaxed to a certain extent to encourage healthy competition in the market. However, one can argue that fundamental change is needed to address the undervaluing of commercial TV. But any proposed changes, such as those to allow PSBs to restrict their advertising minutage (and increase prices), would work against the grain of the share of commercial impacts trading mechanism.

- How do you consume visual media?

I have a passion for high-quality domestically produced drama. I watch programmes that are scheduled via linear broadcast, together with archived content from the "golden age" of TV via catch-up services on my TV/PC.

CHRISTIAN BYRON - buying director, OMD UK

- Why does it make sense to have a team buying visual media rather than just TV?

At a very simple level, it's about bringing the requisite skills from digital and television together. To assume that either party has all the answers and expertise is simply wrong. The PC and the TV are quickly converging and buyer skillsets clearly need to follow. At OMD, we have gone a step further than simply creating an AV unit. We run multimedia buying teams that encompass all media. Our people all buy more than one media and are trained to buy digital, while buying directors are responsible for delivery of all media to their clients.

- How well have media owners responded to the changes you have made?

The majority of media owners have already, or are about to, embarked upon similar restructuring processes, so understood many of the challenges. From an AV perspective, ITV and Five are notable in how they have rapidly incorporated video-on-demand trading into the mix and developed joined-up teams capable of operating across media.

The most disappointing aspect from the majority of AV media owners is the lack of significant effectiveness research.

- What are the cultural, training and other issues internally?

When the AV market first took off, there was much talk of land grabs; of TV departments looking to muscle in on digital's turf and vice versa. Thankfully, we moved past that stage pretty quickly. Instigating multimedia teams suddenly meant that everyone's objectives became aligned. The multimedia teams created a great forum for training, with people assigned buddies to help develop their secondary media and digital skills.

- How has the restructure benefited clients?

The buying teams are now much better equipped to extract value from the market - to construct interesting multimedia deals, and identify interesting and new commercial models.

On a practical level, clients can sit down with one buyer and discuss the full sweep of their investment rather than have to talk to individuals from six different buying disciplines.

- What developments in 'vision' advertising are you most excited about?

The AV market becomes a far more interesting world, when it's about PC services on the main TV set. The launch of Project Canvas, along with developments from Sky and Virgin, in terms of improved on-demand functionality and ad-serving technologies, along with take-up of broadband integrated TVs, will see focus increasingly shift towards what can be achieved. Imagine press-of-a-button transactional services off the back of a 12 million X Factor audience, coupled to behavioural and demo targeting.

- To what degree does the tight regulation of television and upfront nature of agency TV deals need addressing?

The various channels of AV distribution will be judged on their own merits and will succeed if proven to be effective, via robust research, improved measurability and demonstrable business results; they will not be driven, or hampered through how traditional TV is traded.

- How do you consume visual media?

Increasingly, when and wherever I like; although more often than not, it's watching BBC iPlayer on the laptop with headphones on, while my girlfriend watches three hours of X Factor or Britain's Got Talent on Sky+.

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