4 Questions Marketers Must Ask Their Media Agency

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

Marketing has changed radically in the last few years. There’s a greater reliance on data and analytics, a constant need to blend creativity with disciplined media planning principles, a ferocious war for talent, and rising scrutiny around inclusive and sustainable practices. As marketers seek to capture and retain scarce consumer attention, they must ask their media agency for clarity on its approach to four areas, vital for an agency’s long-term success.

What are the agency’s capabilities in data & advanced analytics? Marketing is a data-hungry field. Yet according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau , only 41% of marketing and media leaders are increasing their investment in first-party data. Agencies that leverage an advertiser’s first-party data, blend it with second-and third-party data, and work closely with identity-resolution providers, can improve the impact of audience addressability and attribution.



Marketers should quiz agencies about their measurement, advanced analytics capabilities, and their third-party partners. Beyond the fundamentals of delivering reach, frequency, impressions and GRPs, media agencies must identify growth audiences,  and capture and act on time-sensitive and place-specific signals.

What creative approaches to media execution is the agency taking? Media agencies are uniquely placed to take the messages developed by a creative agency and amplify their impact by using 360° consumer engagement.

Creative success depends on inter-agency teams and clients closely collaborating to generate and implement new ideas. For example, slowing down a podcast ad for consumers who listen at 2x speed, a phenomenon known as "podfasting." Setting aside a small budget and the time for testing fresh ideas is part of the process.

What’s the agency’s strategy for developing and retaining talent? The single biggest area of investment for media agencies is its people! According to their annual reports, the largest marketing holding companies spent between 50% to 60% of 2021 revenues on staff costs. It matters how an agency recruits, trains, and retains its people.

MIT Sloan experts studied the traits of the emerging workforce and identified data literacy and a commitment to equity in the workplace as important to a company’s success. As a client, you could structure your agency’s incentives based on their meeting certain targets on diversity, training, hackathon participation, and certifications.

What is the agency doing to prioritize inclusive and sustainable media practices? In addition to employing a diverse and well-trained talent pool, agencies must embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) both in placing media with minority-owned businesses and in reaching such audiences. Agencies can set targets on the percentage of clients’ advertising investment to be placed in media owned by women and minority groups.

Major holding companies are also taking environmental sustainability seriously, setting targets for greenhouse (GHG) emissions, percent of electricity purchased from renewable sources, and so on. What concrete steps is your agency taking in relation to DE&I and sustainability?

To facilitate the best work, you have a responsibility to give your agency as much information as possible about your goals and priorities, internal culture and value system, and the scorecard you will use to evaluate it. An agency with the right people, equipped with the right data and analytical toolkit, working in a culture that values sustainability, DE&I, and creativity, is more likely to produce innovative solutions to help achieve your goals.

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