Media aims for the higher ground

At last week’s ISBA media conference, two speakers forecast an era of technological growth.

While most of last week’s Incorporated Society of British Advertisers’ (ISBA) media conference was dominated by advertisers’ concerns about ITV’s current form, one session, on the future of media buying, looked to a much rosier future for the industry.

Two speakers outlined a future where advertising and marketing become increasingly complex because of technological developments in the media. This complexity will demand sophisticated media buying and planning, whose contribution to the communication process can be greater than it is now.

This will allow media buyers and planners to move away from commodity dealing and into more lucrative added-value services.

“In the past, our lives were ordered around media which sought out consumers and delivered them in large numbers,” says Mike Elms, chief executive of CIA Holdings. “But now, as a result of technology and sheer availability, it is consumers who are seeking out media to create their own portfolios.”

Elms believes mainstream media buying and planning agencies are going to have to invest in more research and databases to ensure accurate targeting of new or marginal ways of communicating.

There are also possibilities for two-way communication that will allow media to become a channel, not just for communication, but for retailing and distribution.

To take full advantage of developments, clients are going to have to change their attitude to media and how much they pay for it, says managing director of O&M Media Mandy Pooler.

“There are an increasing number of advertisers who recognise the dawn of a consumer-driven era in the media,” she says. “They want to invest in programme making, test interactive services, experiment with sponsorships, direct response TV, infomercials and any futuristic techniques to bring their brands closer to the consumer.

“Media is no longer a passive vehicle for the placement of ad-vertising,” she adds. “In the era of relationship marketing, the media are nothing short of multimillion pound matchmakers.”

This technological change, Pooler believes, goes hand in hand with changes in the media market, which means the emphasis on media clout and confrontation with media owners is a thing of the past. This also means the end of the constant quest for discount buying.

“I like a big discount as much as the next woman,” she says, “but I believe discount alone is a poor measure of buying performance.”

“The old approach to media leads to a simple low-spec business. OK, you say, it is low margin, but there’s still a margin and if you can bulk enough clients together you’re going to make money, la Kwiksave.”

“The kind of media I’m talking about is high-spec, high-cost and it requires high calibre people at both the media-buying and client end. But it’s also high impact, high return and high value. And it’s not cheap.”

Pooler’s picture of the future was especially brave, considering it was made in front of clients with one thing on their mind – the rising cost of media.

MIKE ELMS

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