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Are silos needed in an era of specialisation in media?

15-July-2004
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Are silos needed in an era of specialisation in media?

Does it make sense to have silos within media houses? So you have the concept of specialist planners who choose to focus on one particular media vehicle (print specialists, television buying units, etc). But doesn’t this lead to unnecessary controversy over who gets what share of the media pie? Is the client really comfortable dealing with multiple points of contact? If you have a lot of different people going at the client from different angles, doesn’t the entire gamut of media buying and selling become a lot more confusing?

Says Vikram Sakhuja, Managing Director, Mindshare Fulcrum (South Asia), “Nearly Rs 10,000 crore need to be spent across 100+ TV channels, 12000+ publications, etc, and within each, the question arises as how best to use that medium. Brand building is no longer just about buying a few TV or press spots; it involves incorporation of consumer response with plans. This is why we have business managers who plan their client’s investments and trading managers who maximize the buying productivity. Silos start and end here.”

He adds, “Most clients only need to interact with their business managers who come up with integrated solutions. Trading managers implement the plan. If a trader believes that a particular channel would work better for a plan than another recommended one, he will make the recommendation. Jointly the business manager and trader can agree on the final plan to be implemented. This ensures that paper plans are tempered with marketplace realities and opportunities. As in client organizations where brand marketing and sales collaborate to actualize plans, so is the case with planning and buying. Trying to get one person to do both jobs will lead to lack of depth in either. Getting two experts to collaborate on the same job will lead to synergy in action.”

Punitha Arumugam, COO, Madison Media West, also feels that specialization is an intrinsic part of today’s media environment. She asserts, “We already have seen specialisation emerging in planning, buying, research, outdoor, Internet, events, etc. These specializations will only multiply and become even more micro as time goes by. Look at the way the Madison media structure has been evolving. We have a business head for each of our businesses – he is the custodian of the client within Madison. Based on the brand requirements, this business head accesses the various specialists within the system and gets them to thereafter deliver to the brand’s requirements. The business head still retains control on the deliverables.”

She adds, “From a client's perspective, this model works as he still has a single-point contact and yet gets specialist skills to meet his requirements.”

Nandini Dias, Vice-President, Lodestar, however, has a different view. She observes, “In 1995, when we started Lodestar, we created separate silos for planning and buying. We quickly realized that it was not working to the client's advantage. We changed the structure. Today we have a single team leader who interacts with a client on all fronts and gives integrated solutions. As a result of silos, there is unnecessary politics of who gets what share of the revenue. Hence, in order to resolve issues, most of the large clients have started employing a media co-coordinator at their end.”

According to Dias, it is “now becoming obvious to clients that there is a lack of synergy within media houses. As a result, they have started questioning whether the advice offered by the so-called specialists really has a hidden agenda.”

Silos may be a reality in the media industry today, but it is up to agency heads to ensure that these silos do not indulge in one-upmanship over who gets what share of the revenue pie. If that starts to show as an issue, there would be nothing to stop clients from making a heady dash to the exit door.

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