Is the game up for media agencies? Mike Cooper, CEO, PHD, chose this question to begin the second Media Agency Reprise session at the Festival of Media 2009, currently on at Valencia, Spain. Cooper said, “If the trade press is anything to go by, media agencies are in trouble. People have been writing about how the recession has forced media services to return to fundamentals, and have said things that media is indeed approached as a commodity.”
The evidence that he said the press had picked were the facts that the recession had led to more emphasis on cost as major advertisers’ profits plunged, and that there was a sudden increase in global pitches. Cooper, however, also took the audience through the history of the media service business and pointed out that every era had seen its change – the 80s were about the independents, the 90s were about unbundling, and soon after it was the explosion in media, where media agencies went on a procurement drive.
Now was the time for another change. He observed, “Change is a constant in the business. If we don’t manage, the market will find a way and specialists and independents will grow and take our place.”
Both Cooper and Dominic Proctor, CEO, Mindshare, pointed out that media agencies had a good track record of managing change. The thought process here was that while media costs were a major component, it was not everything. Clients want deep consumer insights, integrated digital expertise and the ability to leverage and scale up the communication. Cooper quoted a client’s view to substantiate his point that there is a media buying equation that is beyond buying better and cheaper.
Collaborative, but not cosy
The duo spoke on the need to embrace change and said that technology would be key catalyst for change in media. The lines in any case were blurring between publisher and consumer, TV and online, and online and real life experience.
For Proctor, recession was speeding the change. He said, “Perhaps one of the most commonly heard statements today is ‘Don’t waste a good recession’. The media service agency has done well and the future lies in truly embracing and understanding the geographical economy.”
Proctor further said that while collaboration was important, there still had to be competition at heart or else the situation would be cosy and non-progressive. The two also discussed the future agency model, where Cooper said that a much greater degree of specialisation would be seen; planning would be more visual and that there would be significant investment in research for leading to the media channels of the future.
He believed that the future was about specialists being integrated into client-based structures, and that the opportunity for media from there would be infinite. But the key for both was that a definitive view on road ahead had to be taken – evolve or die.