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Thinkbox perspective on Know the Value of Media initiative

Thinkbox perspective on Know the Value of Media initiative
Thinkbox Chair Tess Alps reveals what media agencies can learn going forward from the Know The Value of Media initiative.

Having spent 13 years at PHD, for much of that time developing new disciplines and latterly in charge of the whole UK group, I couldn't be more supportive of the objectives behind the ‘Know the Value of Media’ initiative from the IPA's Media Futures Group.

Media, in its broadest application, can now play roles across a brand's entire operations from NPD, to corporate affairs and customer service.

But often the potential for a media agency's contribution is compromised by one-dimensional and short-sighted procurement functions.

So bravo to the IPA for leading the charge.

I've read the IPA papers and attended the launch, and agree with much of it. These few suggestions are offered from a critical friend in the hope that one or two might make your campaign even more successful.

Boys' Toys syndrome

Devices and technologies are not media. The growth of smartphones and tablets is fantastic, but people are as likely to be reading The Guardian, doing their banking or watching Downton Abbey as anything else.

And while drones and self-driving cars are fun, how much of a brand's attention do they merit? The internet (web, mobile etc) is not a medium and it’s time to stop referring to it as such. It’s a technology that’s benefitting everyone and not just the global tech giants.

Media neutrality is not ‘media beige’

The expansion and complexity of what we now define as media means that media agencies certainly deserve to be considered as business partners, but only if they are a) properly skilled in all areas and b) have no vested financial interest in any particular recommendation.

Media neutrality is a precious asset and it means that it should be everyone’s ambition to make all media remuneration equally profitable for the agency to maximise the brand’s profitability.

Sometimes this mean charging what might seem like a relatively high fee versus the media cost. And this demands that media agencies respect all media - that they don’t, for example, see social media as a substitute for radio.

Their skill - and how they will serve brands better and justify higher remuneration - is by optimising how these elements work with each other, as IPA Effectiveness case studies prove again and again.

And because no medium works in isolation, media agencies should have a duty of care towards all media. Without that outdoor campaign, the opening rate of emails would be lower, so don’t damage the brand media that makes the activation media work.

The sword of truth

In a desire to expand their roles there's a danger of media agencies over-stating the pace of change, of grabbing a dodgy stat simply to support their case. We should all respect the robust industry data that exists in every market rather than the latest PR puffery of an interested party.

And the spirit of truth, not just the letter of truth, means giving the whole picture, shedding light not heat. TV is most often the target of incomplete or downright incorrect information, often disseminated by its competitors. Media agencies should remain highly sceptical of all pieces of research produced by partisan sources, yes, including ours. We welcome it.

New tasks, new budgets

If media can now be applied to a wider range of business challenges, then it is important for media agencies to seek the appropriate budget to address them, rather than just stretch the brand communications budget thinner and thinner.

Social media could be seen as part of customer service, event sponsorship as a corporate affairs task or website design as a form of in-store marketing.

Sometimes these budgets are even out of the hands of the Marketing Director and team, so media agencies need to penetrate further into their client organisations.

Respect creativity

It’s arguably more important than any other single element.

Effectiveness, effectiveness, effectiveness

Changes in behaviour and time spent with different media are interesting but, in the end, the only thing that matters is whether the investment achieved its objectives, with no special pleading.

It demands that media agencies get closer to business outcomes, not just media efficiency, and that they pay as much attention to long-term brand effects as they do to tracking short-term responses and that they develop more holistic attribution analyses to those responses.

So, easy peasy, then. I do wish IPA media agencies the very best of luck in their campaign. A lot rests on it and you can be sure that we will be watching closely.

Tess Alps is Chair of Thinkbox.

Learn more about the ‘Know the Value of Media’ initiative here.

Watch our video playlist below from the high profile industry event.

Last updated 27/11/2014

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