OPINION: What does 2013 have in store for media sales?

Danny Bass
By Danny Bass | 17 December 2012
GroupM's Danny Bass.

What does 2013 have in store for media sales?

It’s that time of year when our industry pauses for moment to look back at the year that was, take stock of what worked, what didn’t, and look for signs as to what the coming year has in store for the media world.

There’s no doubt 2012 has been a tumultuous year. Ask a journalist, or anyone associated with the creation and distribution of news, and most would tell you they’d sooner forget about 2012.

Significant reshuffling, an endless roll call of retrenchments and the “single-newsroom” concept have had an enormous impact on lives and news reporting. Is the wave of change over? Probably not – you can only hope that the ability to deliver quality journalism remains intact.

Media sales, the other part of the church and state of media, has seen some significant changes at the senior sales level recently. But what does this mean for the role of a media sales person in 2013 and beyond?

A morning spent in the reception area of GroupM will give you an idea on how many media sales representatives walk though this building every week, meeting the media planner buyers.

I wouldn’t know the exact number, but I’d hazard a guess that it’s in the hundreds – multiply that across the market and that’s a lot of people and a lot of face-to-face meetings.

But, just like in journalism, change is sweeping through media sales.

We are already seeing this change in full effect around the world – media sales groups are significantly changing their approach to how they service an agency, making major hires in the programmatic buying and data analytics fields.

Publishers overseas are now putting their entire inventory into the RTB environment. It’s no longer the remnant that publishers couldn’t sell. The phrase premium programmatic will be commonplace next year.

A number of media companies have removed their front line sales teams entirely.

Locally we’ve also seen significant amounts of inventory fall into the programmatic buying space, with News Limited the last of the big four to throw its hat in the DSP ring.

In my opinion Mi9 has lead the way this year, in both reinventing its sales approach and the way it sells its inventory. It’s something it needed to do and should be congratulated for it.

The reality that dollars are moving into new areas will come as no surprise to anyone, but just look at who’s arrived in this market in the past 12 months alone – AdapTV, Tubemogul and Videology on the video side will be as much a friend as foe to the local players. Likewise, in addition to the non-agency DSPs and Exchanges, TURN and a ramped-up Rubicon are setting up for a big push into 2013.

Take look at the large third-party data vendors – each of them seems to have a big target on Australia, probably as a springboard into Asia, but all will make an impact in this market in 2013.

The big difference with these guys is their local operations will be extremely lean – their power and point of difference lies in the technology they have and the banks of resources they have overseas.

So what does a media owner / media agency relationship over the next few years look like?

There will always be a need for creative thinking, large-format ideas and the platform to build brands. These will be lead by the cross-platform integration teams either in existence or being developed.

But as more inventory becomes biddable, something has to change.

The tenets of a great media owner-agency relationship will always be there – reliability, creativity, delivery, and importantly trust.

But there will be fewer, if any, face-to-face meetings (in the traditional sense) between sales reps and media buyers, while the sales people of the near future will require completely different skill sets. If newcomers to media sales are not up-skilling in the areas of data and analytics, programmatic buying and technology, they won’t last long in the game.

This doesn’t mean there’ll necessarily be fewer people in media sales roles – just that there will be different roles, relationships and requirements.

And what will media agencies look for in their media partners? For me it will come down to three key areas: technology, analytics and a deep understanding of their audience and how brands can reach them.

Danny Bass
Chief Digital Officer
Group M

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