Media Agencies in Danger of Becoming Obstacles, Not Enablers

AdAge’s (smart) Jonah Bloom opines today:

Media agencies, potentially the best and most important partners a marketer can have in today’s increasingly complex media world, are in danger of becoming an obstacle to the right deals rather than an enabler.

Conversely, media owners are skipping the media agency and going straight to the marketer:

Media owners are slowly but surely recreating their channel-defined media properties and turning them into platform-neutral brands that connect with a certain type of audience….The way such media owners are restructuring reflects the way their audiences consume media, which is a lot less about the channel and a lot more about the brand promise. By putting the consumer at the center of their models, they are also, of course, trying to give marketers what most would say they’re looking for — a relationship with a particular type of consumer, or, even, the chance to be part of a community of their consumers…Yet many ad agencies, media agencies and even marketing departments are structured by medium.

But while silos prohibit integration, Jonah misses one fundamental point: silos promote the status quo, and they also seriously inhibit investment in new media and alternative strategies, both within individual silos and across the board. There is just no incentive or fear to motivate innovation when you’re only judged by how efficiently you can run your existing media-centric department. I believe this is why marketers continue to lead the push into consumer-generated media, and media and marketing-services agencies continue to lag…big time. There are some exceptions, such as here, here and here. But at the end of the day, while the marketing-services silos are busy evaluating, the brand marketer has to make some tough decisions and will bypass the servants if need be.

Jonah then says:

Those walls are going to have to come down, and the planners and buyers who focus on one platform are going to have to broaden their expertise.

True. But I have one final question: are the big agency holding companies the manifestation of silos? My hunch is yes. What’s even worse about the big agency holding companies is that they often think they have all the best answers for their clients within their cadre of silos. Even if they realize they don’t, they still have major financial pressure to make believe that they do. Bob Liodice of the ANA recently tackled aspects of this issue in an open letter to the AAAA’s immediate past chairman, Ron Berger:

As marketers seek to innovate and reinvent their brands, they depend on trusted agency partnerships – no question about it.  However, it is hard to imagine how any one agency could effectively help a major marketer tackle the diverse, expanding, highly competitive challenges presented by today’s dynamic marketing arena – from the burgeoning interactive/micro media space to the blossoming multicultural marketing landscape, to the fast-changing branded entertainment and sponsorship marketing opportunities, and more.  Seriously, Ron, do you really believe that all these diverse challenges can be effectively met under the aegis of a single agency – without diluting effectiveness?  I don’t.

Bob is right and his full blog post is here.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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