Specialism leaves tough decisions to the clients

Most advertisers now recognise media as a separate business sector within the communications industry. Separation is here to stay and the pitch is inevitably more complicated as a result.

However, that complexity has been exaggerated by the fragmentation of media services into specialist companies.

The issue is whether this complexity is necessary or whether media specialists are using the situation as an opportunity to avoid interdisciplinary decisions by leaving them entirely up to clients.

Clients can now choose between companies offering media strategy, implementational planning, buying across all media, buying for a single medium, or companies (such as the one I work for) that do the lot – full service media. Of course, many full service companies are happy to work in a single medium so that they can compete with the specialists.

But how does the process work when a client has spread his media across a number of agencies? What does a client do when, inevitably, the specialists contradict each other? The client may hope to manage the “positive tension of competition”, with all parties settling on the best solution and working together as a team.

I believe, however, that this is unlikely to occur. All good media people are passionate and competitive individuals who hate to lose, particularly if that loss appears to reflect on their core competence. The result is a loss of con viction by the losing party.

A disillusioned strategist is unlikely to continue to interrogate every media opportunity if he believes that a buyer will ignore his carefully crafted plan to achieve a good deal. Nor will a good buyer be keen to go that extra mile in a negotiation if he believes the strategic idea is a load of nonsense.

In addition, how does a client arbitrate between the two parties? I’m sure there are many consultancies that would happily step into the fray. However, that would result in endless debate and even higher fees.

There is another option.

A full service media company should see everyone within the department sharing a common goal – success for the client’s brand. Multi disciplined teams working together can urge each other to stretch the boundaries of media thinking, while always remaining aware of the tough reality of competitive cost delivery within the media markets.

Recent thinking on this subject seems to suggest that clients can either choose comp etitive buying or innovative planning, suggesting that all solutions are in some ways a trade-off between one or the other.

My contention is that they shouldn’t settle for this. It is possible to have your cake and eat it, but your chosen media company must be structured correctly to be able to deliver.

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