Media: Double Standards - 'In a forecast of rain, we sell the best umbrellas'

The downturn has increased clients' hunger for media measurement. Two media auditors reveal why the credit crunch has been good for business.

ADAM SWANN - SENIOR EXECUTIVE, ACCENTURE MARKETING SCIENCES, MEDIA MANAGEMENT

- How has the economic downturn impacted on your business?

The downturn has increased the degree to which companies focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of their media spend, and has resulted in more companies and/or more markets being scrutinised, using services such as ours across the spectrum of media management - benchmarking quantitative and qualitative performance, agency objective setting, agency PRFs (bonus systems), agency pitches and compliance monitoring. As a result, we are seeing opportunity.

- Which of your services are most in demand?

Those that focus on industry-leading practices in terms of setting up the agency relationship, and those that relate to efficiency gains, ie. that yield measurable added value. Support with agency contracts and media agency reviews are, therefore, becoming the top-of-mind routes to value for clients.

- Which media offer best value to advertisers right now?

That's always dependent on the individual context of an advertiser and, therefore, you have to take into consideration all the relevant alternatives to find the best- value proposition. In these more challenging times, we see clients being more conservative in their planning. For example, many will use historically proven formulae to weather the storm and, subsequently, this may slow the switch to alternative (non-TV) media in the short term.

- Are auditors' pools, such as the "Billetts rack", flawed, given the complexities of current TV trading?

Media pools help clients evaluate their media buying. Such benchmarking is as important as ever, as clients can use them to assess metrics and agency performance in the context of media trading conditions. We measure the quantitative and qualitative performance on the criteria that concern our clients, and we weight them to reflect the relative importance they have in their business. Clients need to know where they stand in terms of validating the way they have spent their media budget, and the use of media pools and media audits can help.

- How would you describe your relationship with most media agencies?

It's professional and respectful. Agencies know that clients need measurement and evaluation - so it's best all round to have it done by a company that lives by high standards, which Accenture does. Clients want to find that in the companies with which they work.

- What will be the dominant trend in media during 2009?

Relying on tried-and-tested formulae, more media pitches in search for value even in a deflationary environment, and more centralisation of client decision- making. Those with strong networks are the most likely to increase their advantage.

- What was the last work project that you really enjoyed?

The last ones I did, or am doing ... they are all enjoyable because they are diverse and relevant to creating value for the client. The spectrum of client needs is broadening, so the menu of our services is wider. We provide media management services for our clients in diverse combinations of components, and deliver value in response to varied needs.

MARTIN SAMBROOK - MANAGING PARTNER, BILLETTS

- How has the economic downturn impacted on your business?

It may not be a popular comment but business is very good. In a downturn, clients increasingly look for greater effectiveness and better efficiencies from their marketing, as my 20 years as a media audit professional has taught me. Our offering includes marketing effectiveness, media monitoring as well as the UK's most reliable auditing and consulting service based on the most robust pools. In a nutshell, the forecast is for persistent rain and Billetts is selling the best umbrellas.

- Which of your services are most in demand?

We are seeing a significant upsurge in demand for our agency management processes and pre-flight checking services. There is much more focus on our services at the start of the process rather than after the event - after all, you can't unspend money. Clients are also using Billetts Media Monitoring to track competitor activity, to help set their own budgets and as a wider gauge of market confidence.

- Which media offer best value to advertisers right now?

In terms of both absolute pricing and mass reach, TV is very good value right now. Pricing is at the levels not seen since the early 90s and may go down yet further still. The reduction in activity has also created a less ad-cluttered programme environment within which to make an impact and create cut-through.

- Are auditors' pools, such as the "Billetts rack", flawed, given the complexities of current TV trading?

Most, if not all, advertisers should see their pricing improve in 2009. To know if this means their performance is more or less competitive requires a benchmark that gauges the market trend. With a data pool representing 45 per cent of UK TV spend, there is no better barometer available. This is especially true where agency performance bonus is linked to better pricing. Bonus should be for better competitive position rather than simply riding a falling market. Rather more advantages than flaws - particularly at this time.

- How would you describe your relationship with most media agencies?

In general, we work well with agencies, particularly those who share our goal of maximising marketing effectiveness on behalf of the client. This is only possible because of the expertise our people have and the credible data our pools provide. Occasionally, this means we may be more demanding of an agency than it believes is possible, but tricky conversations come with the territory and the relationship is usually strengthened as a result.

- What will be the dominant trend in media during 2009?

A focus on ROI like never before - and that's long overdue, by the way. Despite the tactical advantages of cheaper TV, I think we will see an acceleration of relative investment into digital media and that will be a consequence of the greater ROI focus.

- What was the last work project that you really enjoyed?

Building a pre-eminent international network for Billetts and building a very promising under-12s team for Harpenden Cricket Club.

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