Media agencies are rising to leadership challenge by transforming ourselves for the better
A view from Kelly Clark

Media agencies are rising to leadership challenge by transforming ourselves for the better

Our agencies help clients in ways that Google, Facebook and Amazon will never do, writes Group M's global chief executive.

Every business needs a purpose. A business without one will eventually fail, and even a well-defined purpose doesn’t guarantee success.

Group M exists to support brand growth and the competitiveness of our clients. That purpose drives everything we do, every day.

We don’t pretend to do what Google, Facebook, Amazon, or many other important media sellers do. We do something none of them will ever do: we judge impartially how each of them individually, and all of them collectively, help our clients reach and effectively communicate with consumers to sell more products and services.

We have acquired and refined our expertise in consumers, markets, and media investment over decades. We see across brands and categories, retailers and other intermediaries, and all significant media platforms. We use our knowledge to serve our specific clients, and to improve the industry. Importantly, we do all of this while operating in real, live-trading markets, in every country in the world, every single day. 

This deep real-world experience and accountability is something new entrants, including consultants, cannot offer. We employ media experts in over 100 countries. Many of them have built distinguished careers by combining passions for media and marketing and delivering innovation and competitive advantage to clients over many years.

We also employ many thousands of young people who’ve joined us with a curiosity about how consumers engage with brands – and a desire to help some of the world’s biggest advertisers win in a very challenging market. As with every generation and in every industry, the skills of the new joiners are different in many ways, formed through a different set of experiences and technologies. Their unique perspectives and skills help us consistently reshape and refine our services to the advantage of clients and our own business.

Of course, clients demand transparency and different business models from their partners. They all care about long-term brand growth. Some are driven by short-term outcomes. Regardless, it’s our job to shape our products and services to their needs and preferences, and to operate commercial models that work best for each of them. Every solution is therefore unique to each client and shaped by our collective experience.

Many clients are also facing low-growth or declining markets, on top of the incredible changes in consumer behaviours. They are asking more of us, not less – and in the great majority of cases, we are rising to the challenge together. Yes, once in a while, the expectations become unreasonable. In these circumstances, it can be bad business and we must have the conviction to step away.

In a global context, the complexity of what media agencies do is enormous. And the pace of change across media partners and technologies is dizzying. In this environment, it is obvious that change is everywhere, and especially at media agencies. At Group M, we continue to make the tough decisions necessary to transform ourselves and the market into the future that we have defined. We believe that our singular focus on media makes this possible. 

Some have suggested a crisis of leadership, questioning whether the media agency business is a good one and even whether there is a need for media agencies. That does not reflect the reality of our day-to-day experience.

Recently, we have helped lead the industry to identify and eliminate fraud in the advertising supply chain. We have championed the highest standards of digital media viewability and measurement. We have contributed significantly to the fight to stop content piracy, and the drive to protect consumer privacy.

Most importantly, our 30,000 people around the world help thousands of clients every day to use their investment in media to be more competitive, increase the value and performance of their brands, and grow. That is leadership.

Kelly Clark is global chief executive of Group M