What media salespeople are telling us and why it matters

Editor’s column: What media salespeople are telling us and why it matters
Opinion: 100% Media 0% Nonsense

This week we want media leaders to help us shape the values and causes we will champion in 2023. But all the while we need to remember what is keeping advertisers up at night.


We’re now only a couple of days from this year’s The Future of Media conference, our flagship two-day event where some of the biggest names in UK media will talk about the big issues in our industry.

I’m most excited about The Media Leaders debate, a special session taking place on two stages where where we will have many of the industry’s most senior leaders in one room debating these issues, while in another room the same conversation will be conducted between rising stars and ‘future leaders’. We are asking the industry to help us come up with the three most important topics in media that The Media Leader should champion in 2023.

Why we’re doing this

Regular readers will know that brand values are important to our publication. In July 2021, under our previous brand Mediatel News, we launched a pledge to stand up for excellence, courage and inclusion in media. We did this because we recognise too much of what defines ‘success’ in media is size, whether it’s comparing revenue of media owners, a media agency’s billings, or how widely consumed is a form of content.

Then, this year, we rebranded to The Media Leader to double down on our strategy of being a beacon for leadership and strong values among the media community. Since the pledge we have also launched weekly bulletins to act as a magnet for content that fits with these value: Strategy Leaders, where the industry’s sharpest planners, researchers and analysts comment on what makes media strategy ‘good’ in an ever fragmented and complex landscape; and Career Leaders, where we run frank opinions and analyses about the ongoing talent crisis, dealing with hybrid working, career training and progression, and wellbeing. Sign up to our newsletter to receive these sections as part of our daily newsletter.

Wednesday morning’s debate will form the next step of our journey. If our publication’s ‘reason for being’ is to produce content about the media and hold it to account, then we want this industry’s leading figures and rising stars to help us sharpen our focus.

We have already identified the top 10 talking points for the debate based on discussions and content over the last 12 months at our various events and on The Media Leader‘s site.

These currently include:

  • Sustainability
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Talent Crisis
  • Inflation/Cost of Living
  • Media measurement
  • Effectiveness
  • Attention marketing
  • Renaissance of media planning
  • Trust in media
  • Media collaboration


Maybe we’ve nailed it and one of these 10 will form the Big Three that we champion as causes next year. Or maybe some of them are not precise enough. Or maybe we’ve missed one. We want to hear from our readers this week as we debate these issues in person.

Please take five minutes to complete this survey, as we want to make sure we are involving as many people as possible from the industry to help us identify the most important topics we should focus on next year.

Don’t forget what advertisers want

This year’s Future of Media event comes at a fascinating time for the industry, as the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster ITV prepares to launch ITVX and double down on digital-first content over traditional ‘linear’ TV. (Good thing we’ve snagged a live interview with ITV CEO Carolyn McCall on the Thursday!) And, within the next few weeks, global streaming TV brands Netflix and Disney+ are expected to launch cheaper subscription options that will feature ads on those platforms for the first time.

It’s clear that media owners are continuing to change business models by reacting to how consumers behaviours are changing. But advertising still remains a hugely important part of the media ecosystem and rightly so: media businesses should be free to erect paywalls and subscription plans, but the more quality content is made available for free, the better our society is. If advertising is still the best way to make content free, we must always pay attention to what advertisers want.

You may have seen a regular Wednesday interview we have run in recent months called The Fishbowl, where we ask questions drawn at random to senior media salespeople. I’ve been looking out closely for answers to questions like “what are clients talking about this year that they weren’t last year?” and “what keeps coming up in conversations with clients at the moment?”

The most frequent answer is about inflation and the cost-of-living crisis (four), followed by dealing with the challenges of hybrid working (three), followed by how advertising and media should become more sustainable (two), and diversity/inclusion (also two).

But we need perspective

If anything, I suspect these answers are underplaying how much of a concern inflation is for advertisers right now. Inflation was creeping up in TV long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And there was always going to be a surge in advertisers demand this quarter with a World Cup unusually taking place next month in the run-up to Christmas — the busiest marketing time in the calendar.

But, while inflation is top of mind now, we can’t say with any certainty that it will remain so throughout next year. We would hope that prices become more stable early next year, or at least next spring when we haven’t got the heating on all the time.

While the inflation crisis will eventually subside, the challenges of hybrid working, sustainability, and inclusion will remain key challenges to solve. Of course inflation matters, but it’s a short-term concern. Our industry’s ability to keep our long-term issues front of mind, and not just responding to the more pressing issues that crop up in the short-term, will be a key factor in success for 2023.


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