The media pitch – 11 starter questions

The media pitch hasn’t changed but it should. Over-scoped briefs seeking solutions to too many ill defined marketing communications problems, sloppy processes and ludicrous media costing templates designed in the 1980s for an analogue world, all too frequently conspire to achieve an incredibly ambitious goal – the status quo, with the promise of huge cost savings! Surely we can do better than that?

Well done to ISBA and the IPA for creating thegoodpitch.com website – a worthy endeavour and timely reminder of the basic principles of good business practice, as well as decent human behaviour. What a shame it is, that in 2011 agencies and clients need to be reminded to be respectful, brave, open and transparent…

Today’s media pitch however is, or at least should be so much more than the zero sum game of finding a new media agency to plan and buy media at lower costs. Too few clients are asking big questions of themselves and therefore of current and prospective agencies, and in the current land grab, most agencies offer to deliver on everything. So here are 10 starter questions before the pitch brief is even written:

  1. What is a media agency and do I need one?
  2. (Since most will answer yes) why do I need one?
  3. What can I do better in-house?
  4. What type of relationship should I be having with media owners?
  5. How many seats should I have at the CMO table, and who should occupy them?
  6. Should I pay a media agency if they’re trading on their own account?
  7. Who can best deliver me insight from data?
  8. Who should control my data?
  9. What do I mean by creativity in media?
  10. What is good media performance and how do I get it?

Call me naive but when Joel  Ewanick, GM’s Global CMO announced his $4.26 billion media pitch saying “We’re looking for an innovative model that helps us become more effective in leveraging global marketing opportunities more efficiently”, I thought there’s someone in touch with the new era. Maybe that’s why he’s asked a creative pitch consultancy to manage the process rather than a good old fashioned auditor, out to fill their boots with a few billion dollars of media costs.

Of course cost is an issue, especially in these challenging economic times but there are so many ways to achieve enhanced value for the business. Since 2008 most smart clients have addressed the cost side of the productivity equation – to deliver tangible benefits to their businesses into the future, they now need to put as much effort into driving outcomes, and incentivising accordingly.

There is a question 11 and it is very important. Why pitch? There are significant costs and risks associated with pitching: the costs are obvious – time and advisors’ fees – but the risks e.g. loss of embedded knowledge, data integrity, insight continuity, are often overlooked. Most clients have moved a long way from the traditional spots ‘n’ space model and if they’ve had their eye on the cost ball for the last couple of years, they should have their pricing models in order.  These clients may be better advised to use the time and resources they would have invested in a pitch to put in place effective governance of their media investments, and to review and potentially redefine what ‘media’ does and could deliver for their business. Only then should they work out how to resource, manage and pay for the required media services.

  • R Wootton

    Nice post, Graham.  On the money for me.  Thanks too for the mention.