Smile, You Work At A Media Agency

If you work at a media agency, the challenges can be stimulating and the workload daunting particularly as the business get more complex. 

Executives speaking at a 4A’s Decisions panel today devoted significant time to the subject, agreeing that the industry needs to help its workers recapture a sense of “joy” at the office. 

Horizon Media Founder and CEO Bill Koenigsberg scanned the audience from his perch on the main stage at the conference’s New York City venue and declared, “only one person has a smile on their face, yet this is the most exciting time to be in the business.” 

He said Horizon has devoted some effort “to bring enjoyment back to the workplace.” At the same time, “our people are flexing so many new muscles.” Employees today need to be “business athletes,” he added, adept at many more skills than in years prior. 



Matt Sweeney, U.S. Chief Investment Officer at GroupM recalled a mentor once telling him three things were essential for a satisfying career including a “dynamic” work sector, trusting and liking the people you work with and “being valued.” Discussions around those points could benefit talent in the media agency workforce, he added. 

UM Global CEO Eileen Kiernan said a “reckoning” awaits the industry this year. She said the “balance has been forgotten” between the “brawn versus the brain side” of the services provided to clients. “Clients buy brains,” she added, and want strategic partners. And those partners should exude a sense of joyfulness. 

To be an agency person today, she added, “you have to be somebody that loves to learn.” And agencies, in turn, “need to be willing to teach.” 

Supporting minority media companies remains a priority for the industry the executives said. “It’s not a one and done,” said Sweeney noting that GroupM launched a program awhile back to encourage clients to better support minority owned media. “It goes on and clients are leaning into this,” because it helps drive growth. 

Kiernan agreed and advised that cutting back on minority media spending for “short term ROI growth is not good for business [long term]. 

“It’s working,” agreed Konigsberg. The bigger challenge on the DEI front is talent diversity within the industry. “That is still a struggle,” although at the entry level results have improved. “The talent is out there, we have to work harder to find it.” 

Asked by moderator and 4A's CEO Marla Kaplowitz about disruption Kiernan replied she was more “obsessed” with finding “core areas of stability.” 

Koenigsberg cited three areas of near-term disruption: how viable Twitter will be as an ad platform, what happens to TikTok in the U.S. given government concerns about its Chinese parent company and the growing number of distribution outlets for major sports platforms. 

Sweeney pointed to the tech, media and retail sectors and how they all seem to want to be in each other businesses. 

As for AI capabilities at agencies, Koenigsberg probably summed it up best: “If AI is not at the center of the table you’re not going to eat,” because it’s that critical to the role of crunching immense quantities of data.

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