August’s here already, the quiet month, time for the big break and getting away from it all; but of course, in the parallel universe of media agency land, there’s been an outbreak of pitch contagion with the inevitability of long days, late nights and angst-ridden waits for a final decision.

In the meantime, what about all those incumbents loyally staying put? No prizes for guessing where all the top agency talent and resource is being directed when the heat is really on…

Interestingly, this spate of pitch madness is not simply about procurement teams hunting down more competitive terms; more fundamentally, the role of the agency is under scrutiny like never before, as advertisers seek optimum solutions to ever more complex media management challenges.

This theme was central to the debate during conference season, first at Media 360 in Brighton and then Cannes Lions last month – sadly, we weren’t able to attend both and elected to go for the marginally less extravagant venue, albeit still by the sea!

Back in the analogue day, Media 360 was a TV jamboree held in Monte Carlo with a reputation for bacchanalian excess; in its place now is something more holistic and definitely more sober, positioned as ‘an open forum for marketers and media leaders to explore best practices and innovations’ – indeed, where traditional media outnumbered by the new and ITV notable by its absence.

One clear advantage afforded by a TV-centric conference was the opportunity to explore a single medium in depth. The corollary is a multi-media conference that risks trying to embrace too many areas, with delegate focus diluted by dint of myriad hubs and break-out sessions.

With this in mind and for the benefit of any marketers or procurement specialists with an interest in media not able to attend, we have pulled together the top ten key areas of discussion:

Top Ten Headlines


The media landscape really is more extensive than ever

  • This was reflected in range of sessions from digital disruption, social video, programmatic to behavioural economics and ethics
  • Lord Dobbs (House of Cards) and Alfie Deyes (Vlogger) both made appearances, representing a media span of 35 years
  • We saw an ever more divergent spectrum driven by intricacies of tech in all its myriad forms, adding to complexity of media management


The more extensive landscape is reflected in diversity of cast-list

  • Attendance by a plethora of digital specialists in addition to traditional players: Teads, Vibrant, Weve, Undertone to cite a few examples…
  • Outstream video, in-content contextual tech, mobile commerce all adding to the richer tapestry of today’s media mix


The problem of talent deficit looms large…

  • Indeed, voted as no.1 industry issue by delegates
  • Shortage of talent particularly acute within the digital sphere
  • A feeling that more must be done, with more serious intent in terms of training and talent development across the industry


Successful collaboration as the new holy grail

  • Fusion of old and new across myriad channels of communication demands new rules of organisation
  • Working together as antidote to silo mentality, but advertisers struggling to make this work or ignoring issue of dislocation
  • Demands focus on internal structure and agency architecture, with shift in culture and behaviour towards collaborative practices


Re-calibration of media owner relationships

  • Blurring of roles in pursuit of the big communication ideas
  • Agency and advertiser interest in developing media owner partnerships that generate innovative media opportunities
  • Particular resonance in area of content development


Digital measurement remains highly contentious…and a mess

  • So many potential standards, so little properly standardised
  • No consensus on most basic of metrics e.g. what is viewability?
  • Perhaps not surprising given range of vested interests, but area of advertiser concern in light of soaring growth in digital spend


Programmatic is a hot topic dividing opinion across the industry

  • Sentiment captured by session entitled ‘Programmatic on Trial’
  • Fertile ground for fundamental questions around transparency, particularly as more channels moving into programmatic space – advertiser benefit or self-serving agency profit monster?
  • More advertisers looking at where programmatic should sit and value of proprietary data; drift from agency to in-house model


The 30” spot is still alive, but no longer the star of the show

  • TV airtime transmogrified into much more interesting beast of AV
  • Traditional media owners are in a position to offer so much more than linear time and space, meeting brand demand for more innovative and potentially disruptive routes to the consumer
  • C4 was particularly visible and convincing in terms of ‘commercial innovation agenda’ as combination of digital, data, sponsorship, product placement, advertiser funded programming, promotions


Innovate or die!

  • The theme of the opening session with emphasis on the business imperative to innovate in order to maintain competitive advantage
  • Question of culture within an organisation that extends to creative, content generation and communications strategy
  • Importance of testing, failing, learning within dynamic world of media consumption based on consumer-driven insight


Data, content and communications planning

  • More than just a truism, but data on its own is just numbers
  • Data is everywhere, there is a surfeit of the stuff, but what to do with it?
  • Potential role for data in generating insight around emotional connections and patterns of behaviour; more creative approach and fusion with content in pursuit of competitive advantage


So, what was the overriding impression? Clearly, the media world is in a state of flux (but wasn’t it ever thus?) and perhaps inevitably, this is creating some uncertainty about how best to approach the task.

Interestingly, this applies to both agency and advertiser, with shared concerns that the traditional modus operandi is struggling to deliver optimum results, linked to the increased complexity of the communications landscape.

The scale of the navigation challenge has never been more daunting, with a layer of digital and technological elements added to the mix, with the attendant drift towards specialism and fragmentation.

From an advertiser perspective, the key observation would be that media planning and buying really doesn’t just happen by osmosis, whilst control of budget across more channels and more dimensions demands a level of dedicated resource often not available.

In turn, this places more emphasis on the discipline of media management; basically how best to fit all the channels, all the agencies and all the metrics together for optimum brand and commercial advantage?

But in the end, whatever the scale of the challenge, there can be no doubt that the world of communications and media has never been more interesting and stimulating, with more scope for innovation and creativity than ever before.


Next year, see you at La Croisette!

For more information about any of these issues, contact us on:
Phone: +44 (0) 771 123 4898