Why media is adland's real power player
A view from Nick Baughan

Why media is adland's real power player

The agency model isn't broken; the model evolves and agencies only die if they can't keep up, says the UK chief executive of Maxus.

In a departure from the norm I'd like to do what we in our business call a 'category job'. In short, a piece on the contribution to the corporate and social economy made by media agencies. At the outset it is of course important to note that I can only speak with legitimacy on behalf of Maxus right here in the UK but in lieu of a specific trade body for media agencies and with advanced apologies to any peers who disagree, I think the case for our industry goes wholly understated.

In the last five years alone the number of individuals employed by media agencies has risen by 42%

Today it’s a common cause célèbre to claim the agency model’s broken. Let’s be clear, the model isn’t broken; the model evolves and agencies only die if they can’t keep up. Looking at the current state of the nation, I remain wholly bullish on the UK media agency economy so for a moment let's celebrate success and take some pride. It's very easy to forget quite how new our industry is; the media independent is only 40-years-old, the network media agency less than 20 and our record of success in the midst of fierce upheaval in the media landscape has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Digital economy pioneer

We embraced the digital economy from the start, we’ve developed new technologies, new offerings. We’ve been entrepreneurial; we’ve pioneered new ways to reach audiences and have led the way in the wholesale measurement of what we do. We’ve perpetually evolved our own business to the point where it would be hard to recognise from only five years ago and impossible from ten. But most of all we’ve added value. Value to our media partners, to our own category and most importantly to our clients; value in spades from lower CPAs to higher ROIs. We have been restless in the attempted perfection of our model and we have proven the worth of what we do.

Let’s take a look at the numbers – the latest census data from the IPA shows that in the last five years alone the number of individuals employed by media agencies has risen by 42%, which equates to 2,644 new people in work. This is in comparison to an increase of 12% against other agency disciplines. This expansion of our industry has been driven by great work and client demand; demand for new services, new disciplines and a steadfast adoption of the innovative and the effective. We have dedicated ourselves to proving the worth of what we invest in and we help our clients navigate a complex marketplace that evolves on a daily basis. 

Media agency senior management is composed of 35% women vs other disciplines at 24%  

Our position in today’s complicated market has equally never been more crucial. The traditional three-way relationship between agency, advertiser and media owner is currently under scrutiny and rightly so. Transparency and honesty are mandatories and advertisers are often underserved by a cohort of third parties whose raisons d’être lie elsewhere. In my experience, clients are both smart and savvy and know how to work with their partners to get the best value from the market.

As one of the most audited industries in the modern economy, agencies should have absolutely nothing to fear from complete transparency with each and every partner we work with. Moreover we are leading the way in standards across the broader industry whether it be tackling ad fraud and viewability or pushing an agenda of ‘open data,’ allowing all advertisers and agencies to measure against all platforms with a common currency.

Agents of change

Beyond our contribution to the corporate economy we also have much to be proud of as agents of change in the sphere of diversity. Within the broader agency landscape I believe that media agencies have been pioneers of equality. Our own proclivities at Maxus are well documented in this area but as an industry we have a lot to be proud of.

This is again borne out by the census data: media agency senior management is composed of 35% women vs other disciplines at 24%. Likewise our proportion of BAME employees stands at 14% vs other disciplines at 12% and while all of these figures have a considerable way to go, we’re not resting on our laurels for a moment.

For us the debate certainly isn’t over, it’s just beginning and we welcome the opportunity to work with clients who believe that their agencies should better reflect their consumers.

In short, our role as agents of change has never been more important to the continued evolution of the market. The next five years will be no different from the last; we will continue to see radical transformation in the way media is consumed, distributed and traded. We will see new competitors, new technologies and new opportunities and I believe if we can approach them as an industry with the same optimism and energy then we have little to fear.

Nick Baughan is the UK chief executive of Maxus.