Media i Awards winners revealed: TV networks dominate sales leadership as 4000-strong Media i survey signals new industry lows
After 58,000 votes from nearly 80% of media agency staff, TV network sales teams took the lion’s share of awards at the tenth annual Media i Awards, held virtually to recognise the Herculean efforts of media sales professionals to battle through the pandemic. But Covid is taking its toll on the industry: Media i’s latest survey across 4,300 media agencies and media owner teams finds staff struggling with increased workloads, rising unhappiness and big increases in stress.
When the going gets tough
Media agencies have voted TV networks as Australia's top performing media owners in 2020, as the ad market and broader economy battled through one of the toughest years on record.
Four of the six team awards presented at this year's Media i Awards went to TV networks. Nine and Network 10 swept the event, with Nine picking up seven awards, including National Sales Team of the Year, while 10 scooped four of its own.
News Corp also landed four awards, with Verizon Media and ARN taking three apiece.
In picking winners for the tenth annual awards, members of the industry cast 58,000 votes across five media categories. This resulted in 3,532 individual nominations and 165 individual and team finalists. The full list of winners is tabled below.
Separate to the virtual awards event yesterday, Mi3 had a first look at the results of Media i's twice yearly Industry Mood & Sentiment Survey, the largest of its kind in market, which asks both agency and media owner staff for their views on key media metrics and market dynamics.
The survey showed media agencies nominated digital channels to have the highest audience engagement in the past six months through Covid at 79% of respondents, followed by TV at 43%, radio at 33% and cinema at 29%.
The survey results also pinpointed digital channels as the most likely to deliver results for clients at 81%, followed by TV at 68%, outdoor at 42% and radio at 40%.
Whilst the results for digital were largely in line with prior surveys, the most significant improvements in channel perception among agencies in the latest survey was for TV - also reflected in yesterday's Media i Awards team winners. Outdoor and Cinema saw the biggest declines in agency perceptions, largely due to the impact of audience changes across these channels through Covid.
Health check: staff suffering
This year's survey health check around staff wellbeing provides crucial insight.
In 2020, Media i's tracking of 'happiness' across the industry fell to an all time low, with increasingly negative sentiment around resourcing, remuneration, reward and recognition.
Agency happiness scores dropped 8 percentage points year-on-year to 62% as of November 2020 - the lowest in a decade.
Media owner scores showed a similar dip, also declining by 8 percentage points over the course of the year to 66% - also the lowest on record.
When it came to stress and anxiety, 39% of industry respondents admitted to high levels of stress, almost a third higher than the survey in May, which recorded 30%.
Workloads increase, but return to full pay patchy
Media i's survey also tracks the workload levels of agency and media owner staff.
As of this month, two thirds (67%) say that their workload has increased throughout Covid - representing a significant shift from 45% reported in May 2020.
Teams grappling with higher workloads reflects widespread cuts and restructures undertaken to emerge intact from the pandemic, plus a corresponding increase in client marketing activity in recent weeks and months.
Some 21% of respondents said they are still working reduced hours and or/at reduced pay, though this is down considerably from May when half the industry (48%) was working with some form of reduced pay.
Outdoor, cinema and radio respondents continue to be the most impacted by reduced hours and/or reduced pay. Some 53% of outdoor and cinema staff are working on reduced pay. For radio it's 32%.
Back to the office?
The return to work discussion is ongoing across advertising and the broader economy. Some agencies such as Publicis have up to 50% of their staff back in offices across states like Brisbane. Others such as Dentsu remain at home.
Media owners in highly impacted channels such as outdoor, radio and cinema report being back in the office at two or more days a week - and across the survey roughly half the industry (48%) has returned to the workplace at that ratio as of November. A further 39% expect a return by February 2021.
However, those numbers are skewed by Victoria. Removing Victoria would mean 66% of the industry has returned to the workplace at least two days per week as of November.
Across all states, outdoor and cinema are leading the charge with 70% of staff back in the office for two days or more, with a further 21% expected to be back by the new year.
Radio is following closely behind with 67% already back in the office, while another 20% expect to return by January 2021.
Agencies: collaboration more vital than ever
Speaking at the virtual awards presentation, Media i CEO Charles Parry-Okeden underlined the criticality of collaboration between media agencies and media partners given the challenges faced during 2020 and the economic headwinds to come.
He said the industry had shown “incredible resilience” in managing and communicating through the crisis while taking on increased workload and delivering remotely.
“In many cases working more for less, media salespeople have required an abundance of self-motivation, resilience, and creativity to navigate this year,” said Parry-Okeden. “These have always been the core attributes of a great media sales professional - and never more have these skills been required than in 2020.”
Media i MD, Chris Winterburn, said this year's award winners should be especially proud of their achievements - as recognised by their agency counterparts.
Acknowledging these achievements, he added, swung the decision to hold the awards in a pandemic year.
“We are extremely proud of tonight’s event. We questioned often whether holding the awards was the right thing to do, given what so many individuals and businesses in our industry have faced in the last six months.”
To say the least, “it has been a difficult period. But we have also seen and heard our industry’s response - a response headlined by its positivity and punctuated by its empathy and collaboration”, added Winterburn.
“We have witnessed individuals and teams rise to the challenge and collectively arrived at the realisation that our industry, and those who comprise it, deserved to be celebrated - and that this year’s awards were perhaps the most significant that we have held”.
“The response from our finalists has been overwhelming, reinforcing the significance of this initiative to sales teams and individuals across the country. We would like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners on their fantastic achievement.”
Run by Media i, the awards are sponsored by the Media Federation of Australia. Returning category sponsors were Carat, Kaimera, Mediabrands, OMD, PHD, Starcom, The Media Store, UM and Zenith.
2020 Teams Winners List
2020 National Sales Team of the Year
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