Author: Brad Aigner: The Media magazine Sept 2010
Publish: 07 September 2010
To add texture to the insights from the MOST Media Owner Quantitative Research, a number of focus groups and one-on-one interviews were conducted with media industry decision-makers. Questions included: What is the next big media trend?
The following questions were posed:
What are the main issues you face in your businesses with the way the media industry is organised today? As far as your businesses are concerned, what are the big challenges that you think you will have to address in the next three years?
Most media leaders said their key challenge relates to resource competency in the industry. The common view is that the media industry is battling against severe skills and experience shortages, particularly at senior and management levels. The age old problem of attracting and retaining quality staff persists and has worsened as the net outflow of human resource from our Industry increases.
To make matters worse, some media leaders say there appears to be a general lack of passion for media among young people entering the industry. It seems that severe time pressures and lack of mentorship within some agencies is strangling youthful "thinking, courage and exuberance" for media. Some of the fault is levelled at the formalised training organisations in the Industry - a common view is that the quality of young people from some schools is just not good enough, even at entry level. As a result, many agencies are recruiting new young staff from non-traditional sources.
Another common theme was the continued pressure on agency remuneration and margins. Many media leaders reasoned that what media agencies do is ever-increasingly being regarded as a commodity by their clients and that the major contributing factor is that the role of media agencies has become "fuzzy". They say that many agency clients are no longer clear on exactly what their media agencies do and consequently are discounting the value that they deliver. All media leaders agreed that a significant number of media agencies have done the industry a disservice by allowing themselves to yield to remuneration and margin pressure from clients and international agency networks.
What should the ideal media agency be like and should there be a move to re-integrate the media agencies as part of a full service ad agency structure? What will the media agency look like in 2020?
It was unanimously agreed that media and creative agencies working in isolation is the wrong way to go and that this has compromised creative thinking on both sides. All media leaders agreed that the media agency of the future is likely to comprise multi-disciplinary teams (creatives, strategists, planners) working together to develop tailor-made solutions for their clients. One respondent described a "brains trust" concept that "delivers solid thinking, based on some science and a deep study of the needs of the client and consumer, and where the different disciplines pool their collective wisdom."
Notwithstanding this, there was strong consensus that the independence of media agencies should be retained. One media expert commented: "There's a lot to be said about the sitting together of strategic planners and media strategists in developing brilliant ideas, however if that's not coming from a neutral place then it can't happen. A media independent's greatest asset is its independence and its ability to make the right decisions for the brand."
All media leaders agreed that a direct relationship with the client is not negotiable and that a move back to the days when creative agencies "owned the client relationship" would be a mistake. One media expert suggested that a "hybrid model" might be the optimal structure "where the media agency is located inside a full service structure where there is direct and potentially immediate interaction between the disciplines, but with an independence which will preserve the integrity of the relationship and allow the media function direct access to clients".
A number of media experts suggested that the closer collaboration and (perhaps) integration between media and creative is a requirement for the future. However, they believe that media agencies should take the lead in this process. One respondent explained: "Media must take the lead. ‘Where' we talk to people must come before the messaging." Another stated: "The truth is that 90% of media planners never engage with creatives at all. Media agencies could teach creative agencies a lot; they are more frugal, more efficient, they have had to learn to do more with substantially less resources."
How do you think traditional media owners are facing up to the new media opportunities represented by ambient media, on-line media and other non-traditional ways of reaching the target consumers?
Some of the media leaders agreed that certain media owners have embraced new media opportunities and have made positive strides in being able to deliver these opportunities to their clients. The challenge remains for these media owners to learn how to effectively sell these opportunities to their clients.
Many media leaders agreed that many established media owners selling mainstream media are not seriously confronting the new media landscape and the opportunities it presents. They argued that many of these media owners are more focused on competing with other players rather than trying to find innovative opportunities for their clients. Some argued that media owners have been viewing (to their detriment) new media channels in their businesses as "differentiators" or "add-ons" rather than channel opportunities in their own right. Furthermore, one respondent argued that many traditional media owners are guilty of "silo" thinking in that they fail to recognise that the success or otherwise of one medium will always impact on another media. The media leader said that "it would be naïve to think that if a campaign on TV is either cancelled or not even booked, that the budget will find its way into an alternative medium. The likelihood is that the budget will not be invested at all".
What is the next big trend in media going to be?
Most media leaders agreed that the next big media trend will be consumer-driven with consumers deciding what content to consume and how and when to consume it. And they will continue to generate content themselves and choose how to distribute it. One media leader reasoned that "it will be about negotiating with the consumer, and giving value." Agencies that understand this and are able to open their minds to this fact will find the next ‘holy grail' in media.