Last year's media agency “Pitchapalooza”—during which upwards of an estimated $25 billion in media billings was put into review-- underscored a key challenge for agencies as they spend time and money to attract new business, yet increasingly come up short. In today's competitive marketplace, agencies need to prove their worth. That seemed to be the core message delivered by agency executives discussing 2015’s frenetic media review activity at a 4As session in Miami earlier this week.
UM’s Kasha Cacy, MEC North America's Marla Kaplowitz, and Carat's Doug Ray debatd the pitch process with moderator Jack Myers of MyersBizNet.
The key for agencies is to fully outline their advantages beyond their core expertise. Clients want solutions. "Many don't have answers and don't know where to begin," says Carat's Ray.
Ray predicts consultancy services will become more prevalent. “The standard going forward is making sense of [a client's] own data strategy." There's a "competitive advantage" that can be obtained by matching big scale media with the right data sets. He adds, "clients don't buy strategies, they buy executions." As a result, Carat advises in its pitches that it "solves challenges" rather than pitching specific campaigns.
UM's Cacy has seen prospective clients overwhelmed by the complexity of data and content as well as how to measure the myriad channels currently in the marketplace. Hence, companies are looking for "a single partner to manage that complexity and drive business forward," she says. This is "more centralized rather than divvying up separate pieces."
MEC North America is reorganizing its structure to better serve as a one-stop shop, says Kaplowitz. The agency is bringing together its sports, entertainment, social and traditional media units as one collaborative team.
Trust between agency and client—and there is much debate now ongoing about the erosion of such trust-- is another challenge for agencies hoping to win new business. They need to demonstrate that they are invested in the company for the long-term and aren't solely price-driven, the panelists said.
Still, they said they recognize that companies are attracted to the "bright shiny objects" which also can cement new agency relationships. "It's not a bad thing," says Ray. Agencies just need to do a better job of demonstrating their value beyond those shiny objects. When they have "sound strategies to take them on that journey, [clients] will pay for that," he says.
There's also little chance in clients forgoing the time honored tradition of spec work. "The genie is out of the bottle and it won't go back in the bottle," says Cacy.