Media Agencies

From mobisodes to VOD to Internet radio, one of the big challenges for media agencies will be to sift through all the emerging digital platforms and make sense of how consumers actually use them, and then figure out which ones best fit their clients’ marketing strategies.

To accomplish that, agencies will continue efforts begun last year to realign their operations more toward the digital world, agency execs said. That includes expanding communications planning capabilities—proprietary offerings that mix analytics, insights and strategy—to help clients develop more sophisticated marketing strategies that consider the full range of communications choices. It’s also likely to include further “de-siloing” at media shops to foster better coordination among units that plan and buy for different media.

Another major item on this year’s agenda: the switch to commercial ratings and the related issue of reaching agreement with broadcasters and cable networks on just how much value to assign commercials that are watched in playback mode via DVRs. Those issues will influence the buying and selling of ads in the multibillion-dollar upfront marketplace, although it remains unclear how this year’s upfront will be impacted. Nielsen Media Research (which shares ownership with Adweek) has delayed issuing the planned commercial ratings data until late April, giving buyers and sellers little time for analysis before the start of the upfront, which begins some time after the broadcast networks’ late May programming presentations.

On the emerging media front, “the digital technologies are game-changing in their nature because consumers can schedule their own media consumption,” said Bill Tucker, president, client services and operations at MediaVest. “We’re doing everything we can to organize around the consumer.” To that end, added Tucker, the agency has placed digital specialists with each client team so that “digital has a voice at the table from the time the bell goes off.”

Media agencies will also be challenged to develop more precise analytics to help clients find the best digital options for their brands, said Tim Jones, CEO, Americas at ZenithOptimedia. “It’s the morphing of media as digital strengthens, and being able to identify those opportunities and apply metrics against them, that’s the challenge,” Jones said. “At the moment there’s a lot of intrigue because they’re new. But we need to better measure and understand their impact and therefore what value they have. Whether they are working or not is the key thing to discover.”

Charlie Rutman, CEO, MPG North America, agrees, adding that agencies need to think more holistically about marketing communications to come up with truly integrated plans. “We’ve been trained to look at and measure a lot of media individually, yet it’s the activation of multiple platforms that makes a truly effective strategy,” he said. “I think that coming up with accurate metrics that demonstrate how these platforms all work together is the next big wave.”

And of course, noted Initiative North America CEO Richard Beaven, agencies will be on the lookout for the next new media platforms that consumers will embrace in a big way. “Finding those opportunities is what makes this business exciting,” he said. “Invention can come from many different places. Ideas can come from anywhere.”