Media Redefined: The dangerous new power of media agencies
by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) The priority of efficiency over effectiveness is something that has been bothering me since I’ve been in the advertising industry — and it’s getting worse.
So, there we were. Eight of us, 8am and just landed at OR Tambo International Airport, needing to get to our office in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Before we knew it, the more cost-minded among us had taken charge and done the simple calculation of eight Gautrain tickets vs the cost of an UberXL. The decision was made, and in we piled, feeling smug that we had heeded the financial director’s call to cut out unnecessary wastage.
Two hours later, stressed, frazzled and sense of humour lost somewhere on Gillooly’s Interchange, we piled out and rushed to our respective client meetings. The impact of our lateness was felt across various boardrooms, as presentations were being presented by the unexperienced and clients were making silent mental notes that, if this agency couldn’t even get to meetings on time, how was it going to manage their multimillion rand accounts?
Data-efficient vs creative effectiveness
I see a lot of happy media people walking around, celebrating the final victory of data-efficient media-buying over the effectiveness of a creative solution. In partnership with procurement and finance departments, and marketing teams that are not able to stand up to an insatiable thirst for numeric proof that activity will work, media teams globally seem to have all the power.
What is the definition of efficiency? “A system achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.” (Oxford Dictionaries)
And effectiveness? “Successful in producing a desired or intended result.” (Oxford Dictionaries)
All the focus seems to be on getting the engine of the car as fuel-efficient as possible. Who cares if its heading in the wrong direction?
There was a great article that I read at the start of the year by Rory Sutherland (@rorysutherland), Ogilvy Group vice chair, where he spoke about the “efficiency bubble”, which a lot of the marketing industry seem to be stuck in at the moment.
There were three great insights that he pulled out:
1. Marketing is a source of value creation, not a cost to be minimised
In the pressure on cost, marketing’s role gets lost. If it’s not creating brand value, what is it doing?
2. Advertising is now treated like it’s a branch of logistics
It’s been easy to add advertising into the logistics efficiency equation. It makes a lot more sense to those who don’t understand the power of ideas.
3. Media and message are interdependent. Solving one in isolation is like solving all the “across” clues first on a crossword.
The solve for media is to move away from the spreadsheet, and understand that the real power lies in how effective the end product is. Yes, where and how consumers see it is important, but what they see is equally so.
Brands that are winning understand that getting this balance right is key. Media agencies need to realise that they might think they hold all the cards now, but the “efficiency bubble” will eventually burst.
Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to MarkLives.com.
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