Why hands-on media agency management is the key to campaign success
Advertisers need to engage in more comprehensive media agency management to meet campaign expectations.
Some estimates suggest that advertisers could be losing up to 30% of the value of their campaign investment.
Such losses are attributed to suppliers not always adding value in a way that matches their fees and campaign charges.
Many issues stand in the way of effectiveness – poor objective setting, briefing issues, sloppy strategic planning, partnerships with the wrong agencies, non-transparent trading practices, weak remuneration models, incorrect media choices and lack of proper data analysis to name a few.
These are the reasons why it’s still possible for the effectiveness of digital ads to be incredibly oversold (in some instances, by as much as 4,100%). And such promises of vast potential have contributed to expenditure on some kinds of digital campaigns doubling in just a short period of time.
There seems to be some disconnect between what advertisers expect and what media agencies offer. Such an issue can be addressed through a more hands-on approach that focuses on comprehensive media agency management.
What is media agency management?
The term media agency management is self-explanatory. At the same time, achieving such involvement is still not easy for many advertisers.
According to the K2 Intelligence and Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Media Transparency Report of 2016, there is a fundamental disconnect when it comes to the advertiser and agency relationship.
According to the report, advertisers need to review and update their media agency contracts, as well as their internal governance. And that’s just the first step as far as media agency management goes.
Strong and effective media agency management allows advertisers to make sure that their communications are a source of real rather than superficial value.
To make management work for the respective advertiser, however, organisations need to have the right tools and some know-how in order to address core issues and bring on that much-needed transparency.
Guiding and controlling the relationship with an agency is the foundation of a tailored, productive collaboration between the two entities.
For many clients, however, that control is limited to examining a contract and calling it a day.
Media agency management needs to encompass a whole lot more. From proper briefing to setting the right KPIs and tracking progress during every step of the way, clients should know how to get the most value and how to put the focus on optimal performance.
As experienced professionals who have been in the realm for many years, we are drawing some important conclusions about media agency management.
At Abintus, we’ve done extensive media auditing – a practice that has resulted in the accumulation of valuable information.
There is a clear correlation between the media savviness of a client and campaign performance. And it’s not just our opinion.
This report makes the bold claim that only rich brands can afford transparency. According to an anonymous media executive source, some agencies have a traffic-light system used to determine how knowledgeable the client’s procurement teams are. Based on this information, the agency can confidently decide how much margin they can make.
Extensive and in-depth knowledge of media agency operation isn’t as crucial as proactive management.
An advertiser who knows how to get involved, what to track and when to seek change is considered to a large extent media-savvy.
We recently followed up with one of our clients who’d gotten in a relationship with a media agency.
Originally, the client had a strong contract in place. For most, that would have been the end of involvement – after all, the contract is in place to guide and protect the rights of an advertiser in that relationship, isn’t it?
Regardless of the contract quality, however, that specific client was very frustrated with their media agency. Campaign performance was also not up to par with anticipations.
To find out what was going on, we carried a holistic media audit. The results were intriguing – some key mechanisms weren’t followed, and the media agency failed delivering on terms that were clearly outlined in the contract.
All these problems stemmed from poor and ineffective media agency management.
In the absence of proper supervision, the agency was free to break promises and under-deliver without being checked or challenged in any way.
The importance of effective media agency management for advertisers
From the examples and the stats mentioned above, you probably already get some idea about the benefits that media agency management can bring advertisers.
A contract is a good thing, but its clauses have to be enforced.
Through proper media agency management, advertisers can make sure that everything agreed upon is being followed through with.
One of the metaphors we use is that of the naughty puppy. Properly trained and managed, a pup will be an amazing companion and a sidekick. Left to their own device, the risk of mischief becomes very, very high.
And there’s an actual example to drive the point home further.
The media agency under discussion was supposed to provide post-campaign reports for every single campaign. That deliverable had been agreed-upon and outlined clearly in the media agency contract.
While the agency had full knowledge of this obligation, it failed to deliver.
Post-campaign reports are a normal practice that agencies deliver to their clients. Hence, the violation is a pretty serious one and it requires a response on behalf of the client.
Why did the agency in that instance fail providing a single report to our client?
The answer is so simple – because they could get away with it.
The agency waited to find out if the client would raise the issue. When they didn’t, the agency simply assumed the client didn’t care and they stopped putting in the effort.
After all, why wouldn’t they? Getting the same remuneration for reduced effort is a win-win situation for an agency.
This example is just a glimpse into the importance of ongoing management. Another client we audited recently received raw data reports instead of post-buy reports. The client was analysing the raw data themselves to get some meaningful information.
Once again – this isn’t a normal, routine practice. Since the client had no idea about what a post-buy report looks like, the agency decided to embrace an easy shortcut by providing solely the raw data.
Instead of dedicating a few days to the creation of a proper report, media agency staff simply had to click on the export button and email the Excel file to the client.
In these examples, both parties are to blame for the disappointing outcomes.
The agency is at fault for taking the easy way out instead of following through with contractual obligations.
The client is also to blame due to their lack of involvement and investment in the accumulation of at least basic media-savviness.
Getting a Ferrari isn’t enough to win the race
As you can see, a strong contract in place isn’t enough to protect clients.
The same applies to getting into a partnership with one of the best and the biggest agencies out there.
A simple Ferrari metaphor applies to the situation and explains why having an amazing media agency is simply not enough to guarantee results.
Getting the fastest Ferrari and signing up for a race doesn’t mean you’ll automatically win.
To drive a super-fast car, you need to be a properly trained and experienced race driver. Otherwise, a powerful machine would be under-utilised due to the lack of knowledge.
The same holds true for the relationship between an advertiser and a media agency.
Hiring the best in the industry isn’t going to cut it if you’re not willing to get engaged during every step of the way.
You should have at least some knowledge to effectively manage campaign execution in order to enjoy the results that your brand deserves and anticipates.
What could happen next if nothing changes?
There are two kinds of advertisers – winners and losers.
Winners are those who possess enough media-savviness. They know what results they want, and they know how to get such outcomes out of the partnership with a media agency.
Losers, on the other hand, have absolutely no idea about what media agency management looks like. This stands in the way of spending advertising budgets effectively and accomplishing a lot through campaign planning and execution.
In the absence of change, winners will remain winners and losers will remain losers.
There will be a massive gap between the two kinds of advertisers and the opportunity for media agencies to take advantage of the second group will also present itself.
That’s not fair, especially because small and medium-sized advertisers really need their limited budgets to work and deliver excellent results.
To help these advertisers, we have focused on a couple of awareness and educational initiatives.
The Abintus Academy is one of those. The aim of the academy is to empower advertisers to drive growth through the optimisation of campaign performance.
Media management training is also available to give advertisers essential skills and access to top-notch management practices aimed at improving media performance quickly and efficiently.
As an advertiser, you need to track campaign performance on an ongoing basis.
While such involvement will need resources, it will put an end to various questionable, wasteful, and potentially expensive practices.
We always advise our clients to carry out media performance tracking regularly after the completion of a media agency pitch. That’s the only way to make sure that expectations are being met and that disaster has been averted.
Philippe Dominois co-founder and CEO of the global media consultancy Abintus Consulting, and lead coach at the Abintus Academy. He writes for The Media Leader each month and his pieces can be read here.