How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right.
View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
Creating Media Assets
CVL Srinivas, COO-North&South, Madison Media
who controls the big bucks in this 9000 Cr ad industry?....obviously the media planner/buyer. And what kind of an industry does the media planner/buyer operate in? Well simply put, it's highly dynamic, extremely challenging, and still growing. So 'media' (herein after refers to media planning/buying) is where the action is. But is 'media' attracting good talent?
Not too many students graduating out of the numerous colleges and business schools actually have media as a first choice career option. I've found that it is because of the following: a)sheer ignorance, don't know what all the media job entails b)thought to be a 'poor cousin' of advertising (read-client servicing/creative) c) low starting salaries.
How do we address this basic problem? Well, for one, the media industry must do a much better job marketing 'media' as an attractive career option. Media professionals need to get more involved helping students with career planning, writing more often on the subject, talking about media in student forums etc. All the hours we spend in carefully planning and executing a brand's media plan, surely has given us enough insight into how to market 'media' a little better. Students graduating out of a 'media' course and having an appetite for a career in media tend to be much quicker off the blocks than those who drift in by chance. There are exceptions of course, but with things getting more complex, a little prior grounding helps.
Media industry must do a much better job marketing 'media'
as an attractive career option
As far as the compensation issue is concerned, things seemed to have improved of late, but the Cost Per Grey Cell of a media man must be the lowest!! Can agencies afford to pay more? Well, given the low margins, entry level salaries in media agencies will never match up to day-one companies of even the middle-level B-schools. Perhaps, one way of off-setting this, is to demonstrate the growth prospects in this line, and the chances of an 'early peak' in a media career. The other way in which agencies can bridge the entry-level gap is to relook at their traditional structures by using more technology and less manpower, thereby increasing entry level salaries; but that is easier said than done.
Gone are the days when the media person could live and die in the shadow of his 'savvy media boss' or his 'servicing colleague'. Each and every recruit must be able to one day handle a business, service a client, lead from the front and have the vision to make media an independent driver for building brands. The profile has changed, so too should the parameters for evaluating a new recruit.
Lets assume we've crossed the first hurdle, and have got a perfect, bright young mind to opt for a career in media. Most large agencies slot their people into boxes, which sound like.. 'Strategic Planning' , 'Implementation Planning', ' Media Buying' , 'Media Operations' and what have you. Whilst it is a good way of allocating a job definition, these tags tend to stick a bit too hard onto people, and they often live the rest of their 'media' lives that way. How can a 'Strategic Planner' live and work in isolation all his life? Ditto for an implementer. Media is one function, and not a sequential assembly line, that needs each work station to do it's value addition and then pass on to the next. Media people must be encouraged to look at media holistically, whichever sub-function they belong to. Cross-functional discussions on brand strategy, and attending briefing sessions at the very start of a campaign, help broaden the scope of a media person's job. Even if a person heads a 'Strategy' team, he or she will emerge a winner only when the 'strategy' output gels with the rest of the media product in a holistic manner. Media today is too dynamic to be left to the earlier model.
Media today is too dynamic to be compartmentalized
At the next level, the problem is that of 'nurturing talent'. I have often seen bright young media minds getting disillusioned very soon, as they seem to conquer all there is to conquer in a short span of time. Or so they believe. Where most of them go wrong, is the belief that good media planning and good media buying is all there is to media. This again is a hangover of the past, when media was a back-room function and the 'branch head' or the 'servicing boss' took the media product to the client. With the emergence of an 'AOR culture', media men need to sell what they create, themselves. They need to be trained to go beyond the functional aspects, and look at 'managing' media. This transformation from a 'media planner or buyer' into a 'media manager' (term used to denote a job profile that involves leadership and vision)is a critical phase in a media person's career. Agencies need to actively spot the ones who can make this transformation, and assist those who need help. The best thing to do would be to give additional 'account managing' responsibilities to those who seem to have the flair for managing them. So what if he or she is just a 'couple of years old in media': thats the only way we can nurture good talent, and make a media champ tomorrow.
With more and more types of advertisers jumping onto the 'mass media' bandwagon, a single agency handling diverse clients is becoming more common. Media planners and buyers need to recognise the fact that no two clients will be the same, and that one formula cannot work for everybody. This is not to say that each client will need a different approach. The trick is to apply those best practices that one finds relevant to the client or category, in a manner that benefits the client. Media people need to be oriented to this fact lest they become 'stereotypes'. Sometimes, heading the group on a small client is more enriching an experience than being a 'down the line' person on a bigger account.
And finally, media people are as much front-end as their colleagues in 'servicing' these days. Agencies need to pay attention to 'personality development' of their media people. Communication and presentation skills, servicing skills, leadership and managerial skills form an important add-on to the basic media skills. The shy, introvertish, 'media stereotype' image needs to change.
Media professionals should be aggressively coached on 'soft skills'
Before I end, there is another reason perhaps that makes people think twice about entering the 'media stream' . The issue of career progression...where does a career in media lead to ..? Well, it really depends on the individual, and the kind of initiatives that he or she can take. As pointed out in this article, media today gives enough scope to hone all general managerial skills, so much so that a good media manager can add as much value to a business as anybody else.
Particularly because he understands the 'return on investment' proposition better than most.
In sum, media organisations need to spare the time, energy and effort to proactively manage their most valuable assets. This will go a long way in improving the standards of our media products and in making the lives of our media people more exciting.