It’s probably the one word that leaves agency bosses feeling more than a little queasy, but the Mediapalooza – that moment when the world’s biggest ad spenders review their agency accounts in unison – could be warming up again in 2021.
We’re in a pandemic; many agencies are already flat-out trying to survive, and still they’ll somehow find the bandwidth to bring all their best thinking to the fore to produce their best pitches to retain clients and even win new ones.
So David Price, Managing Director at The Grove Media, has some insights into what advertisers will be looking for in these most unusual times…
Mediapalooza pitch activity
It won’t have escaped your attention that there are a lot of pitches going on at the moment. Unilever, Philips, IAG, NatWest, Freesat, Purplebricks, Bumble – and that’s just the media and full service pitches, there are plenty more creative-only.
Understandably, there’s a lot of speculation about what this is all about. Is this latest round of pitch announcements any different from the various mediapalooza events of the last five or six years?
Well, it’s about statutory pitching. Many of the big global advertisers are mandated to review every couple of years.
It’s about rationalisation, too. All of the recent mediapalooza rounds have seen advertisers seeking to reduce their roster of agency partners to a more manageable number, and this is still going on.
On top of that, it’s also about saving money. Some pitches are still procurement-led and in the current economic climate seeking to reduce costs is understandable.
Let’s not forget more effective working. This goes hand-in-hand with agency rationalisation and reorganisation of marketing departments.
And it’s about preparing for post-Covid marketing. Everyone is very aware of the ‘we’re not going back to the way things were before’ mantra, and advertisers will be looking to agency partners to help them plan and navigate their way forward.
Tip of the iceberg
Maybe there are no real surprises here. But the reality is that this is the tip of the iceberg of media and marketing reassessment and change. Most advertisers in the UK sit outside of these large pitches.
Nevertheless, each and every one will be thinking about their future: how they need to change their plans and how they need to work with their agencies.
So as we look at the big pitch announcements and assess the changing landscape, here are six things that all advertisers should be focused on in their ongoing relationships with agencies.
1 Value for money
All advertisers will be looking at their finances right now and many will be seeking to save money. But it’s not just about how much is being spent, it’s about what is actually being delivered for that money.
All agencies – big or small – will now need to go the extra mile for their clients. Providing the maximum level of service for the fee and having a relentless focus on getting the best media prices and deals will be critical.
Some advertisers will inevitably need to look at leaner models with their agencies. This is understandable, and the KPIs will have to shift accordingly.
While we are all making educated guesses about what the new normal will really look like, it’s clear that most people would like it to be in a world of honesty and openness.
This means that the focus on media transparency will be greater than ever. While advertisers can still get low prices on any ‘ask no questions’ basis, I believe that agencies need to have an ‘open book’ policy. In return, they need to be paid fair rates.
3 Speed & agility
With the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, the past year has shown the need for brands to respond quickly to changing events.
Too many were unable to be fleet-of-foot in their marketing and communications and were left standing while consumers embraced new technologies and changed behaviours.
It’s clear that some of the old advertising models simply won’t work anymore. Marketers can’t wait for weeks on end for ‘creative concepting’ or over-complicated media.
The ability to pivot and change direction will be key. Agile agencies will need to take a lead in this.
4 Collaborative working
Over the past decade we’ve seen headcount reductions in many marketing departments and, inevitably, advertiser teams will become even leaner as we work our way through the downturn.
This means that agencies will need to step up and work more as an extension of their clients’ marketing departments. Closer, collaborative working, rather than adhering to specific, traditional media briefs will become more common.
Cultural fit between agency and advertiser will inevitably be more important.
5 Leveraging opportunities in a changing marketplace
With consumers living their lives in very different ways, brands have both a challenge and an opportunity to embrace change. Media, culture, content, shopping, entertainment are all changing.
They were before the pandemic, but the rate of change has significantly increased. The media agency that is at the forefront of this and can quickly leverage opportunities for their clients will succeed.
6 Results focused
Delivering results is clearly going to be critical. There’s never been a time when results haven’t been important. But there is going to be a lot of pressure to deliver quick wins after the pandemic.
There will be fierce competition for consumers as markets open up. Smart agencies will be well placed to deliver, but will equally advise their clients against lurching towards short termism.
With a greater focus on value and cost-efficiency, having clear KPIs across short, mid and long term goals will be vital.
As all of the mediapalooza pitches kick off this year, there are going to be high expectations about what new agencies might bring.
Advertisers are going to make tough demands and agencies are going to sell hard and make many promises.
Equally, agency relationships that remain unchanged will also be under the spotlight as advertisers seek transformation from well-established partnerships.
Either way, the chemistry between advertiser and agency is going to have to be strong to sustain the challenges of the months ahead.