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95/5 – There’s more to media than transparency

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Another day, another article on media transparency. It’s a hot topic understandably, but it’s not the only game in town.

Experts put the size of media’s grey market (consisting of rebates, value pots, and “other” income) at about 5% of total media spend. Most clients have now or are in the process of getting this area under control, as they should. To an outsider it must appear bizarre that such a small piece of the ‘media pie’ commands such a high share of industry noise, especially as the remaining 95% of working media is what drives awareness, preference and sales metrics for brands, and funds a rich, varied and innovative media ecosystem.

If the industry spent as much time and effort on the 95% as it has on the “non-working” 5% we would have a vastly more efficient advertising system, more reliable metrics and a more advanced canon of effectiveness knowledge by now.

‘If the industry spent as much time and effort on the 95% as it has on the 5% we would have a vastly more efficient advertising system, more reliable metrics and a more advanced canon of effectiveness knowledge by now’

Yes, digital technology has opened up a plethora of opportunities for splitting or re-directing ad dollars, but the same evolution is opening up new opportunities for clients to repatriate data and apply more sophisticated techniques to optimise their media laydowns. Now more than ever clients should be challenging their agencies to make their working media work harder, and to develop new tactics and technologies to improve productivity, relevance and creativity – and business results.

The inconvenient truth is that by focusing debate around programmatic margins, many brands seem to have lost sight of the genuine contribution their agency can make to their business success. Many will admit they are still failing on the basics; overspending against their objectives, either from inadequate briefing, or insufficient evaluation of media plans, or inability to optimise, test and learn.

By applying more focus in the unfashionable “craft” areas such as campaign KPIs, communications parameters and budget allocation, clients will typically improve their media productivity by 15%, and we have even seen improvements of up to 40%.

The practice of media is not and never will be a commodity, agencies are not and never will be banks, but many who should know better treat both as such by applying inappropriate and blunt processes to evaluate them. This isn’t good enough – smart advertisers are moving ahead by assessing their media performance collaboratively and strategically and embedding knowledge into their media processes – a thorough spring cleaning as opposed to dusting the mantelpiece.

The 95% is where the real action is; and where genuine expertise is thin on the ground. So next time you think about evaluating your media agency’s performance, maybe focus less time and energy on transparency. Spend more time deciding how to encourage and align the resources at your disposal to spend your budgets more productively to achieve improved business results.

Andy Pearch is Co-Founder of MediaSense, global media advisors helping brands take control of their media.

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