Brands, Don't Just Change Media Agencies -- Change Your Approach

How Marketers Can Reframe Their Media and Compensation Strategies

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You've seen the headlines -- more than $30 billion of media business has gone up for review this year, signaling major changes in our industry. The media model has grown more complex and continues to fragment at an accelerating rate. It's imperative for marketers to not just look for a change in partners, but to capitalize on the opportunity to reframe their media strategies and compensation models in ways that will set their brands and partners up for success.

For the last 50 years, negotiation and scaled rates have been the main considerations for how brands select agency partners, and the number of media options was relatively easy to navigate. With the rise of digital, programmatic, paid social and real-time data, the media model has grown increasingly complex and fragmented. Brands recognize a need for change -- they want more integration and transparency, they need more innovation, and they struggle with tech-stack selection. However, few recognize the core issues that underpin much of the current upheaval in media.

While brands could once win by having the biggest spend and deepest pockets, today competitive advantage comes from having the most rigorous execution and smartest approaches to winning in the last 10 yards -- reaching the right people, in the right places, at the right times, with the right messages.

To win means bridging media once divided along the lines of brand marketing and direct marketing, and requires marketers, agencies and technology partners to rethink how they plan, budget and organize along the consumer journey -- where media drives impact.

To solve for these challenges requires brands to evaluate media partnerships and build alignment. Here's how:

Reinvent the RFP

The RFP should be a lens into real insights about a brand, its customers and business challenges. This will lead to RFP responses that aren't just rooted in the value a partner can create with costs or price, but that allow an agency or technology partner to showcase solutions for addressing challenges.

Marketers can do this by changing core areas of the RFP:

1. Costs. Evaluate costs for different aspects of the engagement, instead of commission rates. Consider retained models for specializations like content, social, paid social and search, where productivity is driven by focus and proper allocation vs. scaled media like TV.

2. Transparency. Understand what the company is doing to build transparency, eliminate fraud, and ensure best practices in media buying. Also, be participatory in the decision-making process and align economically to ensure both parties are working toward the same goal.

3. Experience. Involve the team that will work on your brand day-to-day in the pitch process by asking for chemistry sessions and case studies that demonstrate how the team drives success under pressure.

4. Competency. Determine what resources the partner has internally vs. what is being outsourced. Four-wall competency can mean greater depth of easily deployable expertise and alignment toward a brand's goals.

5. Talent. Look for talent that will scale new media opportunities in ways that will meaningfully impact performance. Growing areas like paid social, for example, require a shift from generalists to specialists across analytics, insights, media and account, working in concert to identify the right cultural moments to optimize. It's important for marketers to understand, for example, the hours that go into a $100,000 Facebook paid social video campaign could amount to three times that of a similarly budgeted broadcast buy.

Acknowledge tech isn't a standalone solution

Technology isn't a standalone solution. It's important to first have a strategy and then understand how technology will accelerate it. Similar to how technology like Etrade helps investors broker stock deals quickly and seamlessly, if the inputs are choosing the wrong stocks, this can accelerate the speed at which investors are losing money. Likewise, algorithms do a great job of optimizing search or programmatic campaigns, but if they're directing customers to outdated landing pages or irrelevant creative, it's difficult to maximize the opportunity. The combination of talent (intelligence) and technology (efficiency) is needed for the best solutions.

Plan content and media concurrently

Advertising is more personalized and relevant than ever. Consumers engage with brands across multiple formats and devices, so content delivery must be frequent and unique. We now have fully integrated platforms that balance content (niche and mass), cross-channel device delivery, and advanced targeting and analysis that focus on the changing consumption habits of audiences and demographics. Brands must prioritize both content and media to take advantage of all of this progress.

There's no shortage of big deals and shiny technologies to power better, smarter media strategies. With so much access to technology and real-time data, it's time to use this period of change to advance toward the future. By reinventing the RFP and team structures, planning media and content together, and investing in the right areas, we can get smarter in the last 10 yards to keep media creating advantages and driving business forward.

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