10 Business Basics Media Companies Can't Afford to Ignore

Ernst & Young's Howard Bass: Beyond Advertising-Budget Slash and Burn

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Howard Bass
Howard Bass

Decreasing advertising budgets coupled with increasing costs have made marketers scrutinize every dollar spent. Since today's consumer is less influenced by classic marketing techniques, competition for engagement has become more intense. At the same time, media and entertainment continues to become more personalized and user-controlled, making it more complex to reach the desired audience.

The recent economic downturn has accelerated the need for organizations to re-evaluate how they do business. Operational excellence can no longer simply be a managerial catchphrase; now more than ever, it must be a call to action.

Operational excellence requires a renewed emphasis on revenue preservation, expense management and continuous improvement. It is as much about looking internally -- how your firm operates and what it can do differently -- as it is about looking externally -- how your firm's operations affect other stakeholders in the marketing ecosystem.

We've seen the following 10 leading practices make an impact in the market:

1. Revisit inventory management.
Yield-management and scheduling tools can help get more value from your inventory and bolster thinning margins.

2. "Fact up" your business.
Decision making is often rushed, reactive and based on perceived history rather than fact. Necessary information takes too long to collate into digestible, actionable analytics. As one executive says, "I make decisions by the facts or by the clock, but all too often, the clock wins." Leading firms treat data as an asset and foster a culture of fact-based decision making and performance measurement.

3. Embrace measurement.
Digital and direct have set the bar for media measurement. Expectations in all media now go beyond basic delivery and fulfillment metrics.

4. Develop creative packages.
Marketers, agencies and planners are selecting media partners based on their ability to drive consumer engagement, as well as impressions across multiple media platforms, brands and geographies. Creative packages deliver greater engagement, and bundling products and services enhances greater consumer brand affinity.

Howard Bass is a senior partner in Ernst & Young's Global Media & Entertainment advisory-services practice and recently served as the global coordinating partner for several major public companies in media, advertising and telecommunication. Previously, he served as the chief financial officer of Savoy Pictures Entertainment, which was subsequently acquired by USA Networks.

5. Partner for innovation.
Be opportunistic as well as strategic. Leading organizations work with customers to develop and adapt to new platforms, technologies and measurements, as well as to build innovative business models. New trends can present immediate opportunities

6. Build an adaptive organization.
People and organizational structures can create as many operational issues as they can competitive advantages. Organizational hazards -- from misaligned skills to internal competition for valuable resources -- damage productivity. Leading media firms react with the speed, skill and flexibility that marketers and agencies need, thanks to well-defined and self-adjusting roles, procedures and processes.

7. Make it easier to do business.
This is perhaps the most underrated differentiator in the market. Operational issues create unnecessary friction and hurt client relationships. The goal should be to forge strong relationships and to become the partner of choice. Ensure transactions are easy, transparent and well-executed.

8. Don't lose sight of the little things.
Operational setbacks are more than mere annoyance. They negatively affect margins, cash flows and client relationships. Even "minor" communication breakdowns have significant impact. Instead of celebrating the short-term heroics needed to resolve inevitable operational crises, leading companies focus their efforts on redesigning processes and improving procedures to avoid inefficiencies.

9. Promote areas of expertise.
Media firms frequently focus on delivering impressions at the best price but often don't highlight their creativity or audience insight. Bring your expertise to light. Avoid being viewed as a commodity; demonstrate your audience insight by using internal research and data.

10. Deliver on promises.
Marketing plans are about driving product awareness and consistent messaging, not just about getting gross rating points and demographic exposure. Underdelivery of the initial promise adversely affects the media planner's credibility and relationships. Identify the root causes of underdelivery and place better controls across media scheduling and execution to minimize lost revenue.

In times of crisis, it's easy to miss some of the basics. Having a solid foundation of operational excellence will create competitive advantages and position your firm for the future.

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