by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) That’s not my headline. It’s the headline of a recent Advertising Age article which made me sit up and read it a few times to make sure I was reading it right. I was, and it felt as if the earthquake I had been waiting for had finally struck.

More intriguingly, it quoted a senior Coca-Cola VP saying: “We are not reviewing our agencies but also our agency model… so as to provide an alternative perspective on communications strategy.”

Advertising Age screengrabFull circle

Client perspective on media agencies seems to have come full circle. Back in the late nineties and early noughties, there was a lot of client interest in the value of media strategy and a lot of very smart thinking in this space emerged.

However, as the recession hit and budgets tightened, the great age of “efficiency above everything” dawned and with pressure from finance and procurement heightened, the only real conversation was lowest possible CPP.

At the same time, technology was driving the inevitable automation of efficiency. Programmatic buying is now a given in digital, and huge inroads in the development of similar tools are being made across other channels. At the very least, every global media-buying house now has a huge team of analysts and statisticians looking for every potential efficiency they can find.


The result? The commoditisation of media buying, where maximum efficiency is the norm and the expected from every client.

In the Coca-Cola pitch, this part of the scope was separated out and the agency mix in the review were only the traditional-buying houses. The decision here would be driven by procurement and be the equivalent of choosing which bank to join — a choice among generics, ultimately likely to be made on price (despite all the shouting, there is very little to choose from, even between bank service).

What was being referred to here was a pitch for that part of the media scope which Coke terms “Connections”. This is big step by a major global brand that is recognising that there is something in that space between media and message which, in the current consumer-communication landscape, cannot be ignored.

A new frontier

This is a new frontier, and what Coke is also recognising is that there is potentially enough intellectual capital in both media and creative agencies to own this space.

For a connection to take place, two things need to happen.

  1. Every potential place where an idea meets a consumer needs to be considered. These touchpoints might be in the paid-media agency space, but are also as likely to be outside of what would normally be considered as part of a traditional-media agency plan.
    Creative agencies don’t have the same limited mindset when developing messaging, and often have more skills in the broader touchpoint mix than media agencies.
  2. Touchpoint and message need to work as one. Most media plans emanating from media agencies are developed in complete isolation of messaging. They will never admit it, but I see it all the time. It means that the outcome is blunt media placement, with little understanding of the nuances of heighted relevance.
    Creative agencies get frustrated by this, and usually have strong opinions on touchpoint selection and usage that would best explode the idea.

The bottom line is that the skills for “Connections” sit in both kinds of agencies. Coke says that “as the media marketplace reshapes and reinvents itself…continued appraisal of our partners ensures we are both working with, and acting as, the best partners to create the most value at the right price.”

Massive opportunity

There is a lot of fear from agencies as the communications environment shifts relentlessly. I see it very differently — there is massive opportunity to embrace and develop new ways of working to meet this exciting new world. And the best part? Clients are open to this coming from anywhere.

What a brilliant time to be in this business!


Martin MacGregorMartin 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



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