Shifting To Media Neutral With TV In The Driver Seat

Media agencies once handled “buying” chores for their clients. The job then evolved into advertising “investment.” Now, the new task at hand is advertising “activation,” and media agencies are turning to buying executives with television backgrounds to get it done.

Earlier this month, MediaVest’s Donna Speciale, originally head of the agency’s broadcast buying and more recently president of its Video Investment Group, was named president of investment and activation. Now, in addition to supervising all video spending for MediaVest clients (including broadcast, cable and interactive buying), she also will oversee the print and out-of-home units.

Back in September, Tim Spengler, executive vp, director of national broadcast for media agency Initiative, was named its chief activation officer. And last spring, Group M, which includes media agencies MindShare, Mediaedge:cia and MediaCom, quietly upped Mediaedge chief investment officer Rino Scanzoni to oversee all media platform buying at all three shops. Scanzoni joined Mediaedge in 2002 as head of broadcast buying.

It’s no coincidence that media agency management is selecting executives with a broadcast-buying background to oversee this new direction. TV spending makes up the bulk of the media agencies’ billings, and clearly, negotiating television buys on behalf of clients, with all the programming and various dayparts, can be much more sophisticated than negotiating a typical print or outdoor deal. More often, it is going to be print, broadcast or online that is going to be worked in as part of a television strategy, not vice versa.

In other words, media agencies are no longer simply placing a bulk of clients’ ad dollars into one medium to reach mass audiences. Nor is it enough for them to just buy advertising across all media platforms.

Bill Koenigsberg, president and CEO of independent shop Horizon Media, sees merit for putting the “broadcast czars” in charge of all buying. “Print and outdoor are becoming more and more leveragable in the world of media, so negotiation is critical, and agency broadcast people can add significant guidance in this area,” said Koenigsberg.

Advertisers want their media agencies to follow the consumers of their brands via the specific media platforms that they are interacting with at any particular time—and this can vary widely from product to product. It also requires a quicker turnaround time to buy advertising in order to capture that audience before it moves on somewhere else, considering consumers’ shortened attention spans.

“Broadcast spending right now is more than half of our company’s billings,” said Spengler, adding that because of this, he is familiar with just about all of Initiative clients.

Speciale agreed, but added that in her new role, she will not simply tout TV as the definitive solution to any client’s goals. “We are going to be much more media agnostic,” she said. “Not all of our deals will encompass all platforms. It will have to make sense for a particular brand. It will depend more on the media habits and media consumption of the targeted consumer of that brand.”

Spengler explained that all buying units will have to adopt a different mind-set. “It is no longer going to be just buying a particular platform in a vacuum for a client,” he said. “Consumers are more content-centric rather than platform-centric. All our buying units are going to have to work closer with clients from the outset to come up with ways to take advantage of opportunities there. It’s going to be more about activating the brand in the consumer’s mind, rather than just having the consumer see an ad for it.”

To accomplish this most efficiently, the broadcast, print, online and outdoor buying units, once separate fiefdoms that negotiated with media outlets separately, are now being brought together from the outset. While TV and online units within the agencies have been working together more formally recently, syncing up print and outdoor buying with them is seen as the next evolutionary step.

Scanzoni said this is clearly a direction that clients are pushing toward. “Our clients want us to talk across all media platforms. They want us to share ideas from all of our units,” he explained. “They don’t want to have to sort everything out on their end. They want us to come up with a unified strategy that works best for their brands, and it helps to have one person at each agency to oversee all of this.”

None of the media execs believes these new internal structures will immediately result in a mass shift of dollars out of their longtime patterns. But they do believe that it will eventually yield smarter ways to spend clients’ dollars. “I do not see the bulk of the advertising dollars shifting out of broadcast,” Speciale said. “But I do see the agencies following consumer habits more closely and being ready to react on behalf of our clients as those habits change.”

“Every deal is still not going to include every platform,” Scanzoni added. “But it will help us buy more efficiently. Spending $100 million is no better than spending $10 million if it is not spent the right way for the client. This structure is all about bringing more marketplace intelligence together for each client, which will help us do smarter deals.”

The former broadcast buyers realize there will be a learning curve to get up to speed on the print and outdoor side. But they also don’t plan to abandon their prior roles with some of their agencies’ biggest spenders. “I will still be very much involved with broadcast,” Speciale said. “I’m not going anywhere.”