This site uses anonymous third party analytics cookies: in accessing any element/area of the site outside of this banner, you consent to receiving cookies. Read our Privacy Policy for further information. Accept and close.

Facing up to the real challenges in media – Q&A with Katja Haars, Managing Partner, MediaSense GmbH

MediaSense welcomes Katja Haars, Managing Partner, MediaSense GmbH to the team. Katja shares with us her valuable experience and what she believes gives true media value to brands.

You have great insight into how brands organise and manage their media infrastructure. What do you see as the big agenda topics that are challenging for brands at the moment?

There are several significant challenges, some are ongoing and some are new.

For me, one of the most important is the need for transparency as a mandatory condition for business. Investing in media without full transparency risks wastage, underperformance and creates a lack of trust, which is essential for creating the right relationship and for addressing the outcomes brands require.

Two other big challenges come to mind. The first is organisational. There is an increasing internal “tension” within brand organisations over who is responsible for managing media and how to allocate responsibility between central and local. This tension, combined with the relative lack of internal expertise and capability in technology, digital, and programmatic is a challenge that persists in most organisations today. Brands not only have to look to upgrade their in-house digital capability, they also need to review how they work with their agency partners, due to the complexity and range of services required.

Brands have discovered their digital supply chain is chaotic and potentially toxic and are turning to independent analytics to restore clarity and transparency. That’s why I made my move to MediaSense, to help brands address these issues.

The second is to apply greater control and higher standards of digital media practice. Marketers are deeply concerned about their content appearing in low-quality, non-viewable and low-engagement inventory. Too many people forget that the rules around context and environment which apply to traditional media apply equally to digital, if not more so. Brands have discovered their digital supply chain is chaotic and potentially toxic and are turning to independent analytics to restore clarity and transparency.

That’s why I made my move to MediaSense, to help brands address all these issues.

And so as a buyer of external services, what expertise were you interested in buying when you were on the client-side?

Our core requirements were for contract advisory and pitch management support, where I was fortunate enough to learn a huge amount across multiple territories and brands.

After that, my main focus was on performance management and media optimisation to drive outcomes.

As the internal level of capability was high within the companies I worked with, strong local knowledge of the media market was a prerequisite and what we really looked for was the deep expertise, insights, and experience to deliver opportunity and added value. You can always buy cheaper, but the real skill is in making budgets more productive – getting more visibility, engagement or sales out of your investment.

That’s interesting, given what you have said, how is the market served currently? 

There is no doubt that there are very capable individuals operating in Germany. My view, and I’m generalising now, is that among the global companies there is a narrow focus on price, rather than outcomes and an inflexible approach to setting and measuring KPIs.

Generic industry benchmarks were once sufficient, but in an age of personalisation, brands need customised KPIs that encompass not just price, but go further to encompass the range and complexity of client-held data.

I also think it is vital that an advisor has a complete understanding beyond media of the business outcomes desired; too often the information produced by pool measurement is no longer valid. We need to go beyond price and identify opportunities for additional value via custom-built media performance programmes.

Lastly, I was surprised that the global providers, despite their scale, struggled with delivering a seamless, consistent experience across multiple markets. There seems to be a lack of strategic cohesion and an understanding of what global brands require from a consultancy.

Generic Industry benchmarks were once sufficient, but in an age of personalisation, brands need customised KPIs that encompass not just price, but go further to encompass the range and complexity of client-held data.

So if that is not what clients are looking for, what is?

Whilst guidance and navigating brands through the increasing complexity is, of course, helpful, brands increasingly wish to reclaim and create value by transforming their own media infrastructure.

To achieve that, they need knowledgeable and independent help and expertise. By evaluating all aspects of a client’s internal organisation design and the external supply chain, it is possible to equip brands to take greater control of their media.

I believe we are at a crossroads; where data, technology, content and media are intersecting and overlapping. More than ever, brands need impartial evaluation and oversight across their media strategy, agency relationships, media contracts, processes and, of course, performance.

So in effect you are advocating a more collaborative, rounded and strategic approach to media investment management?

Yes, the familiar treadmill of pitch/audit/pitch/audit serves the client poorly and often fails to address the real issues. What is needed in my view and from my experience, is a big shift – a strategic approach to solving the fundamental issues that clients face; transparency, organisation, capability, measurement and optimisation based on value, not price alone.

And the number one tactical priority is digital. With brands allocating more resource and spend to digital channels, the critical element that all brands must fix are internal digital capability and their evaluation of digital media performance.

Finally, what is your message to brands and agencies?

Great brands and great agencies are expert at adjusting to and managing through change. That’s why they are so successful. The negative dialogue around distrust needs to change; let’s have an open and constructive discussion about where we are and how we can make media better.

That goes for media auditors too! Current media performance measurement practice, characterised by periodic audits, is clearly inadequate for delivering the full range of value and insight that is now required, and the legacy practice of cost benchmarking has little or no value for brands with dedicated business goals and KPIs.

Brands need to move from auditing to analytics.

Brands need experienced advisors who are committed to identifying opportunities to achieve greater value across the media spectrum, improving ways of working and designing new operating models.

To me, that’s exciting – that’s the real challenge.

Katja Haars has extensive media experience having held senior positions at Gruner + Jahr, Initiative Media & Mediacom, Beiersdorf (as Global Procurement Manager for Media) and most recently as International Media Manager at Haribo.

Sign up to receive the latest media insights directly in your inbox