The secret of media planning’s success lies in its accountability

It is the media planning industry’s accountability, despite unpopularity in some quarters, that makes it attractive to clients.

The media planning industry is becoming more and more creative. With several new strategic planning companies being launched, there are widespread calls for new metrics to be made available to measure the communication outcomes and outputs. However, there is sometimes an apparent disdain for procurement managers and media auditors, who are accused of stifling creativity and squeezing agencies’ margins.

Consider, for a moment, that the reverse may be true. Accountability leads to greater confidence and willingness to invest in advertising, both from the advertiser’s point of view and in the City. Advertising used to be thought of as a murky business, where huge sums of money were involved, agency heads drove around in Ferraris and the way deals were struck remained a mystery to outsiders. Agencies themselves were eager to move away from the 15 per cent commission arrangements in order to undercut each other, and still continue to make ever-more stretching pitch promises.

Media auditors, by promoting accountability, transparency and fairness, as well as checking that pitch promises are achievable, help reassure clients and procurement managers that their investment is being well managed. Their work drives improvement and frequently helps improve client/ agency relationships.

Uncertainty can lead some clients to move agencies and call pitches, a process that is expensive and time-consuming and can often be avoided if there is more accountability and trust in the relationship. Marketers know that their advertising works, but they need to prove to the board that it is a wise investment. Good media agencies want their clients to know that they plan and buy well and share the same aim – that of effective communication with consumers.

When strong foundations of trust are in place, it is much easier to discuss new strategies and negotiate more business. Many agencies are already rewarded beyond the basic fee by performance-related bonuses dependent on sales or footfall, media buying (in terms of both cost and quality) and service.

I would suggest that client/ agency relationships have never been stronger. Together they develop a deeper understanding of consumers and explore new ways of communicating with them. It is now commonplace for clients, media strategists, media buyers and auditors to sit around a table discussing creative media strategies and their value. The mere discipline of seeking quality in media buying, measuring it and attributing a value to it greatly enhances many agencies’ efforts.

Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York, in his book, Leadership, says: “Everyone is accountable all of the time” and “always sweat the small stuff”. By sweating the small stuff, you are liberated to do the big stuff.

Phillippa Hainsworth is deputy managing director UK of Media Audits Group

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