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Media agencies are having the same conversations they did 10 years back: Kester Fielding, Diageo

21-April-2010
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Media agencies are having the same conversations they did 10 years back: Kester Fielding, Diageo

The Festival of Media 2010 did keep the best for last. Kester Fielding, Global Media Procurement Director, Diageo, touched on some of the issues that have been discussed only in closed conversations on the media service brands business, and impact the way forward for the industry. Fielding was candid in stating his views on media agencies and what the areas of focus for them should be.

He started off his address stating: “We believe media has value.” He further said that even in the past, there had been discussions on how parts of media could be changed for the better. “We see communications in a holistic fashion, and not as silos. Today, there are many options for any communication route, and when there are more options, there is more complexity,” he added. Explaining more on this, Fielding admitted that price was important, and everyone tried to get the best deals, which was all not just cost focussed. He said, “Inflation is not a good thing and where we can get a better deal, we will.”

Speaking on the supplier selection criteria, he listed quality and assurance of service as pre-requisites for working with any media service brand; the differentiators were innovation, cost and then the kind of service. Fielding explained the global procurement strategy for an advertiser like Diageo, where at the core were attributes such as Assure, Create and Protect, and aspects such as People & Culture and Aligned Metrics formed the outer layer of the structure.

At a point, he asked the audience to vote on where they thought media inventory fit in the communication structure, and where media agencies fit. While the audience vote was skewed towards the strategic category, Fielding explained that unless things changed drastically, media service brands would be in the leverage or acquisition category. Media owners had a better chance of being in the strategic category.

He then asked, “Have media agencies equipped and evolved themselves like media owners have?” He added that the future health of the media agency industry was the ability to grasp the opportunity that was in working together. Media agencies have to find a way of reinventing themselves. Some attributes media agency should were to understand and have empathy, to respect, to have trust and candour and have positive intent in what they were doing. He said, “How can media agencies better communicate to clients that they are working in their best interests? How can they work together rather than compete over rates?”

Media service brands had to focus on creating their future. He said, “Success is to be able to come together and walk the talk on delivering value.” When asked whether it was fair for clients to go on a pitching spree as soon as the market showed downturn, Fielding said, “I didn’t hear anyone grumble in 2001 and 2002 when high rates were paid.” He thought there was merit in moving away from the commission model of remuneration, since it was difficult to motivate agencies to save when they made commission on the basis of the amount that the client spent.

He reckoned that media agencies had better relations with media owners, and hence, were better placed to work on new forms of communication like branded content. Fielding asserted the importance of integrated communication and said that today that was much of a problem for media agencies as it was for clients, and the onus of being able to grow through initiatives such as these was on both clients and agencies.

Fielding stated that media agencies understood the communication industry and the media market, but the problem was in the fact that their perception had not changed. They were still having the same conversations that they did a decade back, and it was about time that changed.

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