Is your media agency an integral part of the creative process?

Despite being the largest expenditure item in most marketing budgets, media continues to be given less attention than it deserves.

Traditional format creative and media presentations are still common, with creative presented as hero and media being tagged on at the end.

This undersells the immensely strategic and creative role media can play. Some of these roles are relatively new – think programmatic audience data insights, social media insights and user-generated content. And some have been there for years – such as integrated ground-breaking sponsorship and content activations.

Media agencies’ focus is often skewed to cost efficiencies as this is more often than not what media agency reviews are based on. Julian Barrans recently explored this in his blog ‘Why marketers focus more on creative rather than media challenges’.

Here he raised that:

‘Media agency reviews are usually driven around the hunt for better value media and saving money to reduce budgets/deliver cost savings against c-suite derived targets for the business. Rarely is it about better media planning and a drive for creative media use.’

A lack of industry knowledge and understanding of media is also a factor both from a client perspective and at an industry award level. Darren Woolley points out in the podcast ‘Defining media value’ that  ‘Cannes media awards seem to go to creative agencies more often than they go to media agencies because I think there is still a difficulty some people have in judging the true creativity and strategy that exists within a media strategy.’

In an increasingly complex and fragmented media landscape, this lack of focus being given to creative media use and input into the creative process is a missed opportunity. The capacity is there within most media agencies for media to play a greater role, be that to provide greater insights to inform creative, crack a creative positioning idea itself or enable creative use of programmatic media space.

Here are a few often untapped and undersold areas which can help to unleash the creative potential within your media agency:

Strategic and creative leadership

Where does your agency strategic strength sit? Is your creative or media agency most equipped to crack the strategic insights and creative positioning? Who informs who at what point? Who collaborates at what point?

There is no right or wrong process. There just needs to be a process that is optimal for your situation.

If your strategic guns and strengths sit within your media agency there may be scope for your media agency to crack the creative positioning based on their audience and channel insights. Or it may be that this continues to sit with the creative agency with this process better fuelled by the channel and audience insights from the media agency.

Audience & channel insights to unleash creative

Despite the myriad of new media channels and explosion of available data sources, creative ideas are still often built off the back of a TV ‘big idea’. When this is then translated to other lead media channels such as outdoor and digital, the result is often a weaker creative execution than that channel allows for.

The opportunity therefore continues to be for media agencies to better inform creative agencies with the wealth of insights they have available around the channel plan and target audience.

As Ed Pank the Managing Director of WARC Asia said in his recent podcast with Darren Woolley:

‘at the heart of good creativity I believe fundamentally it’s a great idea based on a human insight or a human truth’ .

When we couple that with Tom Denfords from ID Comms observation about media agencies we can see the opportunity for media agencies:

‘They’re all sitting on a bit of a gold mine which was actually really understanding the end consumer perhaps far more than the creative agency’

With the continued growth of digital and explosion of data points this gold mine of data continues to grow – whether the ownership of this sits within the media agency or advertiser. It is key to use these insights to fuel creative ideas both within creative agencies and within media agencies.

Creatively leveraging big ideas

Media agencies’ ability to develop creative innovative media partnership and sponsorships is an under-recognised area of creativity. Off the shelf media partnerships and sponsorships are not necessarily creative. But strategically developed innovative ideas developed by a combination of media agency, creative agency and media staff have the capacity to take a creative idea and expand and deliver it at scale.

Too often creative agencies will present an activation idea to illustrate how their big idea can be brought to life. The opportunity is for media agencies to collaborate in this process upfront to firstly advise whether an activation/sponsorship is part of the media channel plan, secondly look at whether the creative lends itself to the most suitable media partners, sponsorships or on-site activations, and thirdly look at how this can be leveraged to make the big idea as effective and creative as possible.

Creativity in programmatic media

The creativity capacity of programmatic media has long been underutilised.

Programmatic allows for personalised marketing at scale. While media agencies have been targeting at a granular level for some time the creative is often not as granular as the media placements.

In many instances the big creative idea is being rolled out to digital rather than being designed for the digital environment. Media agencies hold a wealth of insights and knowledge about the technologies available to allow for dynamic creative to allow for automated real time personalised creative.

Creative agencies are still very much catching up in this space. The opportunity is for media agencies to educate clients and creative agencies and ensure creative is designed to utilise all the available variants. And that technology is being used to do this in a cost-efficient way. Technologies such as Creative Management Platforms can then be used creatively rather than swapping out a bare minimum of asset variations.

The other underutilised aspect of programmatic is taking the myriad of creative and media targeting learnings to apply to the next iteration of strategic and creative development.

Owned, earned and shared media

Media agencies’ remit is often still focused on paid media. However, with the continued untapped utilisation of owned, earned and shared media this is an area which your media agency is able to add significant value.

From a creative perspective there is opportunity for media agencies to extend and leverage paid media campaigns – be they social, integration, sponsorship or a more traditional media mix across into owned, earned and shared media.

There is also the opportunity for media agencies to creatively explore and uncover owned assets that have not yet been utilised within the media mix. Ideally both of these areas should be a proactive step from your media agency. But it may be that your current cost and contract focus is hampering growth in this area given its resource intensiveness.

So as the media landscape continues to fragment it is key to ensure that your creative and media agencies are working together as effectively as possible to unleash the best and most effective creative possible. And further to this it is key to make sure that your briefs, conversations and contracts with your media agency allow the creativity that can stem from your media agency to be unleashed.

Are you concerned about the value you are obtaining from your media investment? Find out about our comprehensive media assessment service here