Media agencies need to restructure and refocus if they are to convince clients they can add value to their business. Data and audience insight will be key to guiding advertisers to a better understanding of how to unlock customer lifetime value.

March 2015

The media agency model is evolving rapidly as companies try to find their place in the new marketing ecosystem.

While media agencies do not quite resemble Dr Jekyll drinking a potent chemical potion and falling behind a lab bench to emerge as a ravenous, aggressive Mr Hyde, they are undergoing radical change.

The two big drivers of media agency mutation are the aim to take a more consultancy positioning to clients and occupy a space akin to a Deloitte or McKinsey, coupled with a desire to become more deeply involved and immersed in the creation of content.

Both these impulses are driven by digital technology and the deeper, more contextual insights about customer behaviour that can now be gathered.

C-suite media agency chiefs explained their vision of the future at Ad Week Europe 2015, where they wrestled with questions of new-look operating models, whether they should be specialists or generalists, collaborative processes and on what should be their big focus.

Ben Wood, global president of iProspect, said that the strategy adopted by his parent company, Dentsu Aegis Network, was to build up "pockets of specialisms" from search to digital performance marketing. He added: "At operating group level we will try to bring pockets of specialisms together around a client."

Dan Clays, managing director at OMD UK, stressed: "You are on safe ground if you build around what the clients' need". He added that the key focus of clients was now the "omnichannel world" in which the end-consumer was researching and buying across multiple touchpoints.

The ability to sit down with clients and "understand their business problem" will help open their eyes to some of the services "they might not see as core to a media agency," said Mark Creighton, UK CEO of Mindshare.

He added: "Why would not we, as a media industry, want to be seen as more strategic?" However, he pointed out that it was hard to attract the kind of talent employed by global consultants like McKinsey.

Collaboration and a focus on lifetime customer value rather than working on short burst campaigns will be key to future success for media agencies.

However, this doesn't necessarily mean a return to the full service agency model of the last century where creative and media agencies sat under the same roof.

Post Office CMO Pete Markey pointed out that he had yet to be convinced that one agency could offer a solution to all his business issues and the challenge to the agency of the future was "to prove it can do all the things it says it can do without losing focus."