Media consolidation will leave four data powerhouses and a new buying model
It has been fascinating to watch so many businesses act quickly, decisively and change direction on their best laid marketing plans as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic has forced so many to make significant changes to budgets, staff, and campaigns.
Many retail businesses shifted to click and collect models, banks nurtured their customers away from bricks and mortar branches through to their apps or online experiences, and overwhelmingly the focus has become assuring customers on online sales and service capability.
A wise move as customers have changed. The path to purchase on many categories has been disrupted and customers are building direct to brand relationships that did not exist before.
Customers migrating to ecommerce will inevitably come one almighty step in data-driven media buying to be able to nurture identified customers and prospects throughout the purchase funnel, and onto conversion. All formats will play a role; video, native, SEM, programmatic, social. But the single biggest opportunity will be, recognising understanding, and acting on the data signals along customer pathways.
When viewed through this lens, media publishers have never been in a stronger position. They are at the coalface of trends, knowing what content consumers are engaging with right now. Post this period of media consolidation there are four data powerhouses in Australian media; Google, Facebook, Nine Digital and NewsCorp. All have extraordinary capabilities to recognise, understand and act in real time on data signals.
Traditionally, our media agencies were the masters of understanding consumers and their media habits, packaging it up in a terrific bundle of insights for clients. As part of the 12-week planning process, these would form the basis of a well thought out media plan. After the campaign launched, client and agency would regroup to assess the outcomes, probably 16-20 weeks after customer behaviour was first identified.
The time feels right to flip this model on its head. In this precarious economic environment, very few marketing teams will be planning their strategies and campaigns from last year’s budgets, with a more cautionary working rhythm of 3-4 months in advance more realistic.
Engaging teams and agencies via the traditional retained model was sound in our old BC (before COVID) world. This model delivered a team of experts across digital and media planning and buying that was always at the ready and able to secure the best rates in town, working off annual agency commitments. All perfectly sound in a world where we knew what was going to happen over the course of 12 months. In the comfy threesome of client + media agency + media publisher, the power generally sat with the media agency who controlled the flow of dollars. As media publishers have built such robust, real-time data engines, perhaps its time for a shift in this paradigm.
But beyond that, how clients are structured must align to a new way of working. Aligning to channel and therefore agency vs customer and therefore data and data signals. If legacy systems and structures on the client side do not shift and shift quickly, whether campaign activation is direct or via an agency will be a moot point.
This is the line in the sand moment for marketers: an opportunity to re-imagine the media operating model, unlock cost efficiencies, and calibrate for an insight-led data driven media world.