Why this is the best time to be at a media agency

Josh Krichefski responds to some of the criticisms and questions that have been directed at media agencies recently.

Krichefski suggests the industry should stop questioning each other’s value and focus on the challenges. Credit: Getty Images
Krichefski suggests the industry should stop questioning each other’s value and focus on the challenges. Credit: Getty Images

In recent weeks, the term "media agency" has been uttered almost like a dirty word on more than a few occasions in panel discussions, particularly around digital disruption. Maybe we should be flattered that evolving the fastest means we are blamed when change is uncomfortable, but it feels a bit wrong. So what are the naysayers worried about and can we reassure them?

Are we serving our own interests at the expense of clients’?
No. Everything we do is designed to drive business growth for our clients and build long-term relationships with them. Any agency that recommends one channel over another for commercial gain is naïve. Our clients are well-informed and they scrutinise our plans and what those plans achieve. Ultimately, our success is intrinsically built on their success.

Are people being replaced by robots?  
Every time technology has leapt forward, we have feared that humans would become less relevant. Every time, this has been proven wrong. Media is increasingly being planned and bought programmatically. However, the number of specialisms we cover and specialist experts working in media agencies is unprecedented, as is the requirement for strategic expertise to make sense of how the whole system works.

We have invested in data and technology to drive greater relevance and targeting, save us from menial tasks and glean insight at the touch of a button. This latest evolution does not mean more robots and fewer people – it means human time is spent coming up with solutions to clients’ problems.

Is context being ignored by media planners?
All the media industry awards in recent years go to entries in which client, creative agency, media agency and at least one media owner come together in partnership. The media owners that have set themselves up well for this are the ones we are doing the best work with. Granted, when data-enabled targeting drives a greater output, context can become secondary; but a combination of context and audience targeting is the Holy Grail.
Are data and programmatic killing creativity?  
It’s all about the consumer. Unlocking the true potential of programmatic and dynamic creative allows us to deliver contextual, personalised, relevant and timely ads to people. The big idea has not gone away – there are now just more dynamic ways of bringing it to life.

We are starting to see great executional examples of the use of data for targeting and storytelling. But data can also teach us a lot about what content people like to watch and share. When media folk work closely with creative teams, the best work is done. Programmatic was not invented by media buyers; we have just embraced it. If creative agencies do, too, together we will unlock its potential.

All of the questions are understandable. This hopefully dispels confusion. Rather than questioning each other’s value, we should focus on the bigger challenges, such as making sure we future-proof the business, staying at the cutting edge of technology, innovation and client service, and contributing profoundly to our clients’ success.

But that’s all in a day’s work. We must also give our people meaningful reasons to come to work every day and continue to attract the best and most diverse talent in this brilliant industry.

After all, there has never been a more exciting time to work in a media agency.

Josh Krichefski is the chief operations officer at MediaCom