Is All That Glitters Really Gold? A Defense of Media Agencies

MediaWorks Viewpoint: MediaCom CEO Doug Checkeris

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Doug Checkeris
Doug Checkeris
Last month, Ad Age published an article from the recent ANA conference entitled "CMOs Annoyed by Agencies, Ad Networks." A few CMOs were quoted as saying that due to issues with their agencies -- including slow speed to market -- they were considering making more direct deals with media vendors.

We must remember that speed to market is influenced by many variables. This can include resistance from clients' own marketing departments that are sometimes hesitant to change, despite the eagerness of their own leadership. And while there is often significant value in developing partnerships with media vendors, I would also argue that through media agencies' day-to-day interaction with media sellers via our media investment and planning operations, we are distinctively positioned to help our clients decipher this value in a way that is simply not possible at the client-to-vendor level.

Our daily lives are intertwined with media sellers. We understand not only the media assets, but also the promotional, creative and production capabilities that can greatly benefit our clients. Importantly, these capabilities do not threaten our business model, or the value that we bring to the process. For the following reasons, I suggest that media investment companies like ours are key allies in marketers' pursuit of partnerships with media conglomerates:

Effective marketing initiatives must tie in with integrated marketing strategies: Vendors can be great at delivering cool ideas. Of course, to achieve effective results, those ideas must not be one-offs, but rather part of an integrated marketing strategy based on strong consumer insights. Agencies invest millions of dollars on developing communications-planning tools, measurement tools and media technologies that allow our clients to communicate with consumers across multiple touch-points, including the rapidly expanding digital space.
Doug Checkeris was named CEO of MediaCom U.S. in the fall of 2007, and his responsibilities were expanded to include leadership of all of North America in October 2008. Prior to taking on this role, Doug was president and CEO of MediaCom's Canadian operations, known as The Media Company.
By making partnerships directly with vendors, clients put themselves at a competitive disadvantage by not utilizing the full range of tools that their media agencies have to offer.

Leverage counts:
We bring the clout of our agency, or in our case the combined clout of Group M, to the table. We can ensure that media sellers pay attention from the beginning of the process, and, more important, that they keep to the promises that they make during the sales process.

Integration needs oversight:
Generally, media sellers view client partnerships as an opportunity to package the maximum number of their assets into a single bundle to get the largest possible share of budget (integration as a noun). Media agencies are well-trained in integrating assets to get the optimum value (integration as a verb), whether it be media, production or other marketing/sales value. The other issue is that it takes substantial effort to keep the media owners' sales, promotion/marketing and production staff from drifting off the agreed-upon client strategy and back to their own.

Getting the value right:
For traditional media programs, using standard media measurement as the basis for evaluating the value of proposals is fairly straightforward. However, with more-innovative programs, the price is often embedded within the overall package pricing. By teasing out the fair-market media value -- difficult without full knowledge of media pricing across a wide array of clients -- the program benefits can be clearly evaluated against the real cost, or cost premium.

Related closely to evaluating the value of a proposal is the measurement of results during and after the run of a program. Partnerships with media vendors often include a wide range of components to meet a client's marketing goals. Most clients cannot invest the time or resources necessary to develop the tools to thoroughly measure accountability and determine ROI across multiple platforms. As a media agency, we have developed sophisticated modeling tools to measure and evaluate partnerships with media sellers. In today's economic environment, we see business science as one of the most important services that we offer to our clients.

In summary, we think that as a media investment company, we are perfectly suited to maximize the potential of partnerships with media vendors for our clients. As for speed to market, this is a collaborative effort; our clients' responsibility is to be a part of that effort. So while we strive to move to market quickly, we also commit to do so in a way that strikes the proper balance between innovation and prudent marketing practice that serves the best interest of our clients.
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