The Odyssey of Media Agencies

We have our victory, and now we are in more danger than ever before.

I am a great believer in agencies collaborating with each other when working on solutions for clients. However, there are some people who make it feel more like a battle than others. In the full and frank discussions that agencies need to have to deliver great work for clients, I sometimes think that media agencies don’t fully appreciate the influence and responsibility they have.

What we at media agencies need to realise is that we have already won the war.

If the prize of being a client’s lead communication agency was the position that launched a thousand ships, for many agencies and with many clients, it is an honour we have already brought home.

So what is it that enables us to achieve such an influential position within our clients’ agency teams?

It is a skill and knowledge that has many of its roots in ancient Greece: mathematics. Our background in investment rigour, our forecasting nous and desire to measure and count what has been delivered as a result of communications, puts media agencies in a different space to the other communications agencies in the village.

Over thirty years ago, media agencies burst out from within the centre of the statuesque advertising agencies of the world. Since then we have been adding to our capabilities, our scope and our relationships to the point where some clients decide that the only agency they require is one that started life as a media agency.

However, as in many Greek tragedies, it is the moment after victory that carries the greatest risk. What are the perils that await media agencies as they transition into communications and connections agencies?

The first danger from across the sea is the Siren’s song. A tantalising melody that whispers of creativity, ideas and reckless possibility.

It is a song that has driven many a good media man (and woman) mad, and caused them to abandon their greatest strengths of consumer understanding, measurement and forecasting. Those that are led astray find themselves in choppy seas where the idea itself becomes more important than the outcome it can deliver. Here we lose the strength of our rational and measured approach and are tossed about in the roiling waves, doomed to be dashed upon the rocks of personal opinion.

There has been much written in the industry press, here in Australia and across the world, about agencies earning revenue from sources other than the retainers or fees that their clients provide. For agencies that consider these opportunities they need to be acutely aware of the danger of becoming Lotus Eaters- the mythological tribe whose addiction to the lotus fruit left them pale shadows of human beings.

Those who have tasted the lotus, and those who seek other revenue sources beyond their clients, can find its charms overwhelm them. The other pleasures in life pale into insignificance in comparison and before long they are slavishly devoted to devouring the very thing that is harming them the most. Soon they care for nothing else, and any other victories or accomplishments in life mean nothing.

The final obstacle that media agencies face on their journey forward is that of the Laestrygonians.

At their worst these giant beasts can form procurement departments, and quickly devour the honest men and women of media agencies.

Our ability to tame these ravenous hunters lies in the value that we can create for our clients and our ability to quantify and communicate this. This the burning torches that we must wield in order to keep them at bay, at least for a little while.

To conclude this media fable, I encourage the heroes and heroines of media agencies to take confidence in the struggles we have endured over the years, and go forth bravely into the future as we write the new legends of our industry.


This article was published in B&T Magazine:

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