There are two things that dominate far too much of the conversation around media agencies these days: the rise of programmatic and the uncovering of shady practices.
I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be talking about questionable trading (it’s vital we clean it up) and it would be insane to deny automation is going to be a huge part of our future (I, for one, welcome our new robot overloads), but it’s really time to reframe how we’re talking about media and start focusing on the exciting and very human future the industry has ahead of it.
The pervasive misconception seems to be that media agencies exist to do one thing: use one asset (money), to deliver one sort of value (efficient, effective message delivery).
Tomorrow’s great media agencies will, of course, still do this, albeit from a core of programmatic, but they’ll also excel at something much more creative and entrepreneurial: identifying a brand’s untapped assets and knowing how to leverage them to create new types of value. Or, to coin a term, leveraged media.
The leveraged media future will be built around two shifts in how media agencies operate:
1. Identifying new and untapped assets: Rather than just working with spends, inventory and creative, we’ll start considering a brand’s total assets as part of the media mix e.g. packaging, brand equity, databases, physical spaces, human resources, etc. These things aren’t usually seen as tradable, but as the landscape is disrupted and non-traditional partners arise, new types of negotiations and partnership opportunities will open up.
2. Delivering new types of value: By bringing different assets to the table, we’ll be able to expand our negotiations outside the current media owners and publishers and will start working with startups and other businesses on new types of value exchange e.g. new businesses models, revenue streams, markets, skill trading, products, services, content, etc.
A practical example of these in action is ZO’s recent work on the Heineken Chauffeur campaign.
Challenged to build awareness and engagement around its ‘Cities’ campaign, we locked down the core R+F media tasks, then worked to unlock the value of assets like brand equity, customer base and owned media by partnering with Uber to create an entirely new service: the Heineken Chauffeur.
The service provided consumers with free rides and amazing branded experiences, while at the same time building Uber’s user base and meeting Heineken’s campaign objectives at no additional cost. A little bit of leverage for a whole lot of win.
Adopting leveraged media approaches allows us to open up the media agency offering well beyond paid, owned and earned.
From simple merchandising and co-branding (a huge market with relatively few players that media agencies could easily expand into), to more complex integrations (e.g. Macy’s deep integration of Google search with inventory tracking to show shoppers if items are available for pickup in-store), partnerships (e.g. Gap + TaskRabbit’s Xmas task voucher program) and new service developments (e.g. Snapcash, a new p2p payment system that leverages Square’s payments and Snapchat’s messaging platform) the scope for entrepreneurial media agencies to deliver leveraged media products is virtually limitless.
All that’s needed is a reframing of the assets we work with and the value we aim to deliver.
Media’s core has always been trading, negotiation and partnerships, which are immensely powerful business skills, yet we’ve somehow become ashamed of them.
Instead of getting creative and entrepreneurial in how we apply our commercial expertise on behalf of our clients, we’ve gotten mired in scandals, concerns about automation and some misplaced need to pretend we’re creative or digital shops.
We’re not and our clients don’t want us to be. They want us to be smart, embrace technology to streamline the basics and get on with leveraging their assets to do exciting, effective work that grows their businesses and delivers activity consumers care more about than a good CPM.