Most Agencies Believe Media Talent At Advertisers Not Cutting It

A new study from media and marketing consultant ID Comms has found that media agencies and advertisers are all aligned around the idea that better talent management will help them deliver more effective, powerful marketing. 

But the two sides were split on the quality of each other’s talent and who should take the lead in some of the new areas that are increasingly driving media thinking, notably around data management, programmatic buying and mobile marketing. 

The results are based on 130 responses from marketing, media and procurement specialists with a range of global, regional and local market responsibilities. Client-side respondents represented brands with total global advertising spend of approximately $20 billion, while media agency participants came from the six major holding company groups as well as key independents from both the U.S. and Europe. 

Media agencies are broadly critical of the current state of media talent at advertisers, with 70% of agency respondents disagreeing with the statement that the existing advertiser media talent was able to meet client needs. 

Advertisers were more bullish, with 53% thinking that such talent met their current needs, although 29% acknowledged that there was work to do internally. 

There was greater agreement when it came to current media agency talent, although a third of clients were skeptical about its ability to meet their needs. 

Media agency talent’s ability to evolve over the next two or three years was also viewed largely positively, with 54% of agencies and 34% of advertisers indicating they had high-to-very-high confidence this would be the case. 

By contrast, media agencies were highly skeptical about the ability of advertiser talent to meet the challenges of the next few years, with only 16% expressing high or very high confidence. Marketers were more bullish, with 34% expressing a vote of confidence in their colleagues. 

Both advertisers and their agencies cited quality of media agency talent as their key concern, with 30% of advertisers claiming this was an issue, recognition of their dependence on media agencies. 

Looking beyond media agency talent, priorities also differ. Advertisers rank their own internal structures and capabilities as the next most important areas for talent management, but media agencies indicate choice of remuneration models and the challenge of motivating talent as their top areas of concern — areas that were least likely to be cited by clients. 

The biggest divide, however, was around who would develop future talent in key areas such as social. While there was broad alignment between client and agency respondents on where responsibility lies in the areas of Insight (Shared), Social (Shared) and E-commerce (Client/Internal), that was not the case in other areas.

Nearly half [48%] of advertiser respondents believed they should be responsible for data talent, but most [58%] agencies believe this should be a shared responsibility. 

A greater number of agency respondents also want to become talent centers for Mobile [53%], Content [46%] and Programmatic [54%] but in all three areas a significant number of clients want to share responsibility — scoring 41%, 50% and 50%respectively. 

Fifty-seven percent of advertisers did recognize that they needed help in media planning, but overall they were reluctant to divest total responsibility in developing capabilities, preferring to maintain internal control or share the task with their external agencies. 

“Our talent report identifies agreement between advertisers and agencies on how critical media talent is to future success, but also identifies clear splits between the two sides of the talent equation,” stated Tom Denford, chief strategy officer at ID Comms. “Agencies have doubts over the quality of advertisers’ media capabilities,” Denford added.  “What the report underlines, however, is how much advertisers still rely on agency talent to deliver on their media goals, perhaps reflecting that advertisers have not invested enough on their own internal media talent.” 

That equates to a lack of knowledge, which Denford asserted “not only affects their ability to use media to drive business growth but also lies at the heart of many of the trust and transparency issues that we highlighted in our last survey. The bottom line is that without better in-house media talent many marketers have little leverage in trying to develop a more transparent relationship with their agency.” 

Transparency — or the lack of it — has been an ongoing and divisive issue between agencies and clients, exacerbated most recently by a report commissioned by the Association of National Advertisers that concluded among other things rebates paid to media agencies by media sellers was an ongoing part of doing business in the U.S. — often without client awareness — despite denials from the agency community.


4 comments about "Most Agencies Believe Media Talent At Advertisers Not Cutting It".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 28, 2016 at 4:27 p.m.

    The problem is that at many advertisers the media function is mainly one of policing the agency media buys---often in conjunction with the client's CFO bean counters---and to keep media sales reps occupied rather than allowing them to bother the marketing directors or senior brand managers. When it comes to forward media thinking, questionning the brand's media mixes or the over dependence on a single medium---usually TV----the advertisers' media chiefs have little or no say---with a handfull of exceptions. Is this going to change. I doubt it.

  2. Virginia Suhr from Lobo & Petrocine Marketing, June 29, 2016 at 10:22 a.m.

    Media has always been treated as the stepchild of most full service agencies.  Even at media buying services there was a pecking order, with local media buyers being at the bottom of the rung.

    In addition in the past, media people were often paid the lowest salaries in the agencies. To save money, agencies fired many senior experienced people and replaced them with "fresh" talent who were not as talented or knowledgeable.  While many younger people have great potential, the mentoring process between senior and junior people has been greatly hurt by this cutting from the top.

    If clients and agency senior management would look at media planning and buying as an art and a science rather than a commodity, value experience and pay better; then media departments will have less trouble attaining and keeping talented individuals.

    Unfortunately, it's all about cutting commissions and getting as much work as possible out of people these days.  No wonder talented individuals avoid media departments.

    As far as transparency, most of the agencies I've worked for have been extremely honest and show the clients all the rates, both net and gross.

  3. Tom Denford from ID Comms Inc replied, July 8, 2016 at 9:42 a.m.

    Thanks Ed, the report itself also shows some optimism from marketers about their ability to build new capabilities internally to cope with future demands of their marketing organisation.

  4. Tom Denford from ID Comms Inc replied, July 8, 2016 at 9:47 a.m.

    You're right that media departments (and the stand-alone-agencies) probably aren't super attractive for the top talent. I expect it is increasingly hard, in a big media agency, to really see where the future of the business lies.

    In our work with advertisers though I think we've turned a corner, more and more are open to discussing behavioral change - becoming better, smarter clients to the agency and they can see how that translates into value when they start thinking about their media dollars as investments in growth rather than a cost to be managed downwards. That shift of mindset (including new knowledge from the ANA #RebateGate report) is changing marketers behavior in media and should result in agencies feeling more rewarded and paid more fairly. We hope.

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