Report Finds Marketers Still Lack Necessary Media Skills

Advertisers are still failing to invest enough in media training, according to new research from media and advertising consultant ID Comms. 

Some 71% of respondents to a survey by the firm rated levels of investment in media training unsatisfactory or entirely unsatisfactory. 

The survey polled 150 marketing, media and agency executives and formed the basis for the "ID Comms 2019 Global Media Training Report." Marketer respondents represented brands with a combined global media investment in excess of $20 billion. 

One result of this failure to invest in training is that brands continue to lack the skills to make media more accountable and thus maximize its value to their businesses. Nearly half of advertisers think current capabilities and skills are unsatisfactory when it comes to making media more accountable. For advertisers' media specialists, that figure rises to 60%. 

Among agency respondents, the key concern was that lack of training often deprives advertisers of the ability to follow good media management practices, with 43% rating this as either unsatisfactory or entirely unsatisfactory. 



Respondents to the survey blame continued under-investment in media training primarily on a lack of adequate time and available budget, with 30% citing time and 27% citing budget. 

“What’s most worrying about these findings is that investment in media training has not been prioritized since we last conducted the same research back in 2016,” said ID Comms consultant Susy Pyzer-Knapp. “Despite all the concern about the need to make media more accountable in recent years, many brands have not seen fit to invest in the skills that will help them achieve that goal,” she added.

“It contradicts the fact that 99% of respondents agree that brands can gain a competitive advantage in marketing by investing in training that raises their media capabilities.” 

Roughly half or more of survey respondents indicated that instruction for KPI setting, briefing and evaluating agency work and determining media ROI are particularly important areas of know-how. Less important areas for training were reported to be market trends, running media pitches, and how agencies work. 

“Unless media capabilities are raised, it will remain difficult for media to be seen as a key lever for growth,” concluded Pyzer-Knapp. “This has hindered progress we would have expected to see since 2016.”


9 comments about "Report Finds Marketers Still Lack Necessary Media Skills".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 25, 2019 at 11:58 a.m.

    Marketing directors at many advertisers believe that the way their product/brand is positioned and the way the message is presented creatively is the whole ball game. You can't "train" them to be interested in media which many regard as a boring, by-the-numbers, game. Let's be honest, the same attitude permeates at the agencies. Until this  changes---and I see no way that this can be accomplished at present, don't expect an upsurge of interest in media from CMOs, brand managers, etc any time soon.

  2. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, April 26, 2019 at 12:45 a.m.

    Is it possible that university ad/marketing programs are also partly to blame? There are plenty of courses on the social impact of media; plenty of courses on advertising/IMC and creative.  How many "media planning/buying" courses can you find across the university universe? How many courses on "business of media?" 

    While I generally agree with Ed's post, regarding agencies, there's opportunity at the top of the funnel, the early part of a student's journey to an ad/marketing career. Pitch the universities on the importance of media planning and buying.  Sure it's a long term objective, but we've gotta start if we want an improved pipeline.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 26, 2019 at 8:32 a.m.

    James, in my opinion the only way forward regarding clients paying more attention to media would be for them to start recruiting future brand managers from agency media planning groups---though this would require paying more than they are accustomed to for young talent. Your typical media planner is well grounded in numbers and the kinds of stats that brand managers deal with---sales trends, promotional costs, ad awareness studies, etc.--- are merely more of the same, albeit more marketing related.

    I doubt that our universities will ever solve this problem as their "media" courses, for the most part, deal with basics---like definitions of rating points, how to calculate average frequencies and CPMs, etc. coupled with lots of discussions about theoretical concepts such as "effective frequency", recency", etc. It's difficult to imagine why an upward mobile marketing or sales oriented young adult would gravitate to such courses even if more of them were available.

  4. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive replied, April 26, 2019 at 9:44 a.m.

    Ed and James - good convo.  Adding to Ed's point - 100% agree that agencies permeate much of the same.  2 years ago, we did a deep dive into the top 20 media agencies (to see how we compared to their make up) only to find that less than 10% of all of their employee's had ever held a media buying job title (past or present).  The reality is, numbers aren't sexy, and AI and fully managed vendors are readily available to outsource too.  The problem I see more and more is when the numbers start to tell a story, but agencies have outsourced the data side and aren't willing to marry their design with the numbers.   It then turns media back into simply negotiating the cheapest possible rate - which is the furthest thing media should be.  So I don't know that Universities would ever make the commitment to educating on media when the industry at large scale doesn't fully believe in it.   

  5. Patrick Stroh from Brunner / data science, analytics, April 26, 2019 at 10:03 a.m.

    Ed / James / Michael -- excellent comments / insights.  Many media managers / directors do not have the skills to either execute (or train someone) digital execution.  They are swept up in "big questions" about content and strategy (albeit important considerations).  Then you look under the hood at how things are actually being executed (by either noobs or cynical agencies) ... ouch.  

  6. Alison Fowler from Promontory Brands, LLC, April 26, 2019 at 10:53 a.m.

    Good training for marketers/agencies about media should start with the CMO. The CMO needs to drive the accountability for the media spend when they establish their OKRs (objectives/key results) upfront. A good OKR should have an accountable KPI that forces those carrying out the OKRs to understand that the media planning/buying strategies have a job to be done that will be reported out to the CEO and Board. Then teams will start to figure out what drives those KPIs to succeed/fail. (CMOs lose their jobs in tech companies because they can’t figure this out).

  7. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, April 26, 2019 at 11:47 a.m.

    Michael, Patrick and Alison make significant points.  If it's any consolation, the data science, AI, and martech/ad tech realms face similar problems.  Many of those problems and processes are not fully comprehended by C-suite folks. The amount of trust put in technology is often unwarranted and in some cases downright dangerous.

    Patrick, would you agree with the following? Not to dwell on science programs are great...until that graduate gets in the field and works with very large enterprise data.  Whether it's media planning/buying, migrating siloed data to new platforms, or sleuthing social analytics, an experienced person must lead. 

    To Ed and Patrick's points about senior management concerns; perhaps you are both right. Will we have to wait for a "generational" change in management? And Ed, about most schools teaching basics of media are right in the majority of cases.  When I taught, the students would get everything from ratings, reach and frequency to customer acquisition cost, cost per action, ROAS, and multivariate A/B testing. Plus a few more tossed in, just to make their eyes glossy.

  8. John Grono from GAP Research, April 26, 2019 at 6:41 p.m.

    Here in Australia, the Media Federation of Australia (MFA) - full disclosure, I consult to the MFA on matters of audience measurement - has over the years created detailed media courses and content for universities.

    This is coupled with the MFA accreditating universities whose media courses that use the content that we have developed, and that is used and taught correctly.   The students get to use the data sets and software that is used in everyday life in a media agency (albeit generally year-old data).   The students get both theoretical and practical education.   Semester break work-experience is also available.

    The amazing thing is that the MFA employs just seven people nationally, and that the university course material is written and managed by just one person - the incredible Linda Wong.   See more about it here ...


  9. Leslie Laredo from The Laredo Group, April 29, 2019 at 2:56 p.m.

    Having been in the digital media training business for over 2 decades, I can reliably speak to the lack of investments in media training, from all sides of the media table as well as what happens when organizations have a learning culture.

    I read ID Comms 2016 Global Media Training Report and found it quite horrifying (I think it is much worse than “worrying”) to hear not much has changed in the last 3 years, especially since one of the insights from 2016 was “96% of respondents agree that brands can gain competitive advantage in marketing by investing in media training.” This would certainly apply to agencies as well. The reason for the lack of training is both financial and time.

    There is a ton of data that shows how investments in training drives revenue. The time factor is critical and like many professions, continued training is a requirement and professionals are expected to spend significant time in training.  With all the change and growing complexity in media, our industry should have the same expectations that are set for lawyers, doctors, financial advisors and others whose advice and counsel we would not seek out if they were behind in their education.

    The answer is that corporations need to develop a learning culture and understand that training can be the most important differentiator and driver of business.  I know of one media tech platform who has tracked every dollar invested in training to revenues and as the training investment grows, revenue grows at the same rate. They have been in double-digit growth for the last 5 years.

    I have been fortunate to work with CMI/Compas over the last 12 years and they are one agency that has invested heavily in their Learning & Development, with individual training plans for every employee. They have a remarkable line up of media process, product and industry training, delivered as instructor-led as well as through eLearning. Their commitment to training has made them a powerhouse and leader in digital media, with remarkable growth as well as the ability to recruit the best talent.  Needless to say, CMI/Compas’ investment in training does provide their clients with not only the ability to follow good media management practices but it also ensures they make their media investments more accountable.    

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