How long does the writing have to be on the wall before anyone reads it?
Back in 2016 the Us Association of National advertisers (ANA) produced a report into media transparency – following some whistle blowing by a former WPP exec – that purported to reveal all sorts of murky doings in media agencies, most notably undisclosed rebates from media owners, although there was little hard evidence. Maybe the lawyers earned their money.
The big holding company owned media agencies were therefore written off by many but recent evidence, from holding company results especially, appears to indicate that media agencies are still bringing home the bacon, it’s creative agencies under the cosh – at least at WPP.
Forrester has produced a recent report into media agency performance, seemingly US-biased, but with some interesting top line findings.
Of the eight big media agencies assessed according to 23 criteria they say: UM (IPG) and Zenith (Publicis) are leaders; Starcom (Publicis) and Carat (DAN) are strong performers and Mindshare (WPP), OMD (Omnicom), MediaCom (WPP) and Wavemaker (WPP) are contenders.
More generally, CMOs require more than buying clout. They see media as a significant opportunity to drive personalization, commerce, and growth. They constantly scrutinize the global media market for higher levels of accountability, additional performance capabilities and total transparency — not just buying power.
Media technology, data management, strategy and consulting differentiate. As large-volume players become outmoded and less effective, nimbler and more consultative media firms will lead the pack. Agencies that can provide business intelligence, the acumen to apply it, and leading technologies will position themselves to successfully deliver CMOs the growth they demand.
On the face of it, then, all the biggies seem to be doing OK. WPP’s MediaCom might well see itself as being more than a “contender,” having hoovered up many of the big media accounts going (many outside the US admittedly) since the seismic shock of losing VW a couple of years ago.
And CMOs no doubt do require all these things but is anyone other than a big media agency likely to deliver them? Media, strangely enough in this supposedly automated age, is still a people business with tens of thousands across the world peering at computer screens. Do smaller nimbler outfits have the resources to compete? Maybe nationally they do but internationally? One reason the behemoths will probably survive is that clients don’t want all these people on their payroll.
As to individual agency performance, UM is clearly doing well after being written off on many occasions. Publicis will be rightly pleased to see the two main components of Publicis Media up there. WPP may be philosophical about having contenders rather than leaders.