Gottlieb and Unerman can shout all they want, but they are just noisy bystanders

Defining and managing the metrics that agencies and clients use to plan, buy and evaluate campaigns is frustrating, complicated, and time-consuming, and far too important to be left to the media people, says Brian Jacobs.

Colin Gottlieb and Sue Unerman can shout all they want, they are just noisy bystanders
Colin Gottlieb and Sue Unerman can shout all they want, they are just noisy bystanders

Ping! The Cog Blog’s proprietary programmatic search algorithms (fine-tuned to search for native opportunities) uncover yet another interesting article swilling around in what George Orwell would no doubt call the swill bucket of advertising and media-related content. This one is on the challenges facing the newspaper (sorry, newsbrand) business by MediaCom’s Chief Strategy Officer Sue Unerman.

I can’t think of anyone less likely to be rattling a stick around a swill bucket than the fragrant Sue, one of a fairly short list of media agency executives whose views are always worth reading. This time around she asks why the industry can’t seem to agree on how best to measure total exposure to newsbrands’ content regardless of on which device that exposure takes place. The piece is here.

Sue has spoken to (in her words) ‘advertisers of global importance recently, who are appalled at the stultification of the industry in this respect’.

Setting aside the fact that most ‘advertisers of global importance’ wouldn’t recognise a debate on media metrics if it came up and introduced itself to them, the point Sue makes is an important one – indeed it’s one that fits neatly with a recent MediaPost blog in the US by my old colleague Maarten Albarda.

Whereas Sue is discussing print, Maarten’s piece is focussed on TV and the GRP. He writes: ‘If I am …. any of the big marketing players, I would publicly state what I want, take a position and seek feedback from others. If I am WPP or IPG, I need to ensure that we end up with something that will work across all my clients and all my networks. I would want to be a player in defining the "new GRP."

Let's remember Colin Gottlieb of OMG also criticising the industry’s media metrics last year. So Sue and Maarten are most certainly not alone; and of course all three have a point – industry-wide currency metrics are never going to fit every need, and the bodies responsible for them could certainly benefit from input from some of the industry’s leaders.

Defining and then managing the metrics that agencies and clients (and others) use to plan, buy and evaluate campaigns is frustrating, complicated, and time-consuming. It’s also important. Yet (and I speak from personal experience) it’s very hard to engage agencies (or at least those in agencies in a senior enough position to make their opinions stick) and clients in the conversation.

The result of this inertia is that the debate is far too often managed and controlled by the relevant media owners – who of course have a certain vested interest. The bigger the better might be a fair summary of what they look for in the currency numbers.

One media group head I worked with in the US had a framed quote on his office wall from his client McDonald’s. It read: "Media is far too important to be left to the media people."

The same is true of media metrics, and media researchers. There are masses of opportunities for those with a point of view to get involved in and influence the discussion, from serving on Committees to taking part in the debate at the right conferences. All are welcome – and the more senior and opinionated the better, believe me.

I would be very happy if someone wrote in to correct me on this, but I don’t think that Sue Unerman or Colin Gottlieb do these things. Maarten’s excused as these days he consults – and everyone knows no-one listens to consultants or bloggers.

Of course, rather than do the hard yards you can of course always stand on the side of the pitch and shout. But if you decide to choose that option, don’t complain too loudly if you’re ignored as yet another noisy bystander.

Brian Jacobs has 35 years' experience at advertising and media agencies, including Leo Burnett, Carat International and Universal McCann. Prior to establishing BJ&A in 2006, he was executive vice-president at the research agency, Millward Brown.

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