Future of Media Agencies


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The WFA MEDIAFORUM met in New York on November 7th with 'the future' a key theme on the agenda. Three agency bosses joined as guests to present their views on the future of media agencies, to debate the issue with the other panelists and answer questions from across the membership. What followed was a lively debate with several key issues coming forward.

A divisive area was the growth of programmatic buying and the agency trading desks which manage programmatic technologies. Transparency and conflict of interests in this area is a concern, and contribute to the negative image felt about media agencies among clients, suggested a panelist. But for others, it was asserted that transparency is not important; the market is moving from “cost to value” and the key thing is that the agency is delivering excellent results within a strong service culture.

Clients were identified as being instrumental in shaping the legacy agency model and also being an obstacle in the way of re-invention and advancement. Transparency and return of media income earned on their behalf is a key issue for many clients, but some on the panel accused clients of having double standards and asking for an unfair share of rebates and volume discounts – effectively propagating the existing system. Still on this theme, a panelist suggested that the recent trend among clients to extend payment terms was a “slap in the face to agencies”, and illustrates that their work is not valued.

There was a degree of consensus that agencies would gravitate towards providing a greater level of guidance and consultancy to clients. Everything that can be bought programmatically will, enabling greater commitment to content creation, strategic comms planning and helping clients to navigate the increasingly complex ad tech ecosystem. It was also predicted that the trend toward consolidation in the agency sector will create fertile territory for increased platforms for integrated marketing.

For some members this vision is already a reality, with representatives from a number of group agencies working under one roof to engineer a full-service approach, backed up by the expertise and clout of the respective specialist network agencies. With radical changes to the consumption habits of media and advances in technology, a lot of change lies ahead for agencies, but with a return to the full-service model there is a strong sense of borrowing from the past to construct the future.

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