When it comes to agency pitches, most brands would like to see Carat and Mindshare on their list, according to a new survey looking into the perceptions of some of the biggest players in the ad industry.
This year’s International Media Image Survey (I-MIS) Agency Report, part of an annual study into reputations and perceptions of the key players in the international media industry compiled by BSB Media and The Vision Network in conjunction with the International Advertising Association (IAA), charts buoyant mood amongst advertisers.
Forty two per cent believe that the advertising recession is over, and 25% of senior brand marketers state that they didn’t experience the downturn at all. So, in this bullish economic environment, which are the media agencies that have highest awareness amongst clients, and which are seen as preferred partners for riding the economic upswing?
When advertisers were asked how familiar they were with agencies beyond the ones they are currently working with, Mindshare and OMD emerged at the top of the table and were well recognised both in the UK and abroad. Zenith, Mediacom and Starcom rounded up the top five overall. Universal McCann* was strong in the UK but less familiar to overseas clients, as was also the case with Carat, MEC, Havas, Initiative* and Maxus. MEC was highly familiar to advertisers with the biggest budgets but little known to the smallest media investors.
However, when asked what three agencies they would put on a pitch list tomorrow (excluding incumbent) while Mindshare, OMD & Mediacom reappeared in the top five, they were beaten to the top spot by Carat, and Starcom Mediavest also gets top five status – with Universal McCann/UM* and ZenithOptimedia dropping out. So, whilst Carat is less well known, it appears that they are very well respected by those that know them and the agency’s recent success in winning some high-profile accounts is a likely factor.
What do advertisers look for in an agency partner?
Strategic Planning is the most sought-after skill that clients want in an agency partner, especially amongst those with the biggest budgets. Respondents rated People & Management as the next most important consideration, along with Buying Strength, followed by Innovation & Creativity, Digital Expertise and Transparency. Return on Investment (ROI) was ranked surprisingly low at 9th out of 16 selection criteria. Agencies will be interested to see that being Free of Competitive Conflict was ranked joint second last with CSR in agency selection, with a bulging Award cabinet being the least important criteria. (1 = most important).
However, Belinda Barker, Managing Director at BSB Media comments, “The criteria that appear lower down the rankings are ones that all agencies are expected to provide, while attributes at the top are the ones where agencies can distinguish themselves from one another. For example, although awards don’t appear to be something clients are interested in, if agencies aren’t winning awards people start to wonder why not. It matters in a more subtle way.”
Advertisers were also asked which agencies they believed had the best reputation for different aspects of the planning and buying process. This excluded their incumbent agencies, so reflects reputation rather than experience. Mindshare appeared in the top three more than any other agency for the attributes measured and secured top place for the all-important strength of Strategic Planning and also Consumer Insight. OMD came next overall and also was seen as the top for People & Management and Buying Strength.
Creativity emerged as the strongest attribute of several agencies: PHD, MEC, Maxus and Vizeum. However, some of the smaller agencies measured in the research seem to lack a clear point of difference from the competition, with the exception of PHD, and ZenithOptimedia which talks about its ROI strength in all communications. “Several of the agencies in the bottom half of the table generated what could be described as unexceptional ranking across all attribute categories,“ adds Barker. “They really need to decide on their USPs and then communicate them well.”
Which of the following agencies do you consider to have a strong reputation for the following? (BASE: Advertisers excluding own agency)
Angus Grieve, Executive Director – IAA UK Chapter, concludes, “With a new optimism in the air, now is the time for agencies and advertisers alike to look forward and take an in-depth view of the skills and attributes they need in order to make the most of the opportunities opening up. This is why we continue to support I-MIS as a unique benchmarking tool for the industry, and why the survey saw a significant leap in responders – up two-hundred-and-fifty per cent - as the media industry now recognises the value it brings.”
Low usage of RTB
Despite the intensity of discussion around ad technology, only 4% of senior advertisers claim to use Real Time Bidding as a primary method for conducting media deals. This is despite the fact that the survey shows that brands expect to spend 21% of their budget on digital display, mobile and video in 2014.
Transparency is an issue for advertisers
Increased competition and a growing focus on data-driven, automated media buying seems to be leading to a sense of increased transparency in the industry overall. However, dig deeper and what is interesting is that this positivity is driven by agencies, with 48% believing that media trading transparency has improved and only 12% believing it has got worse. Advertisers are less convinced; 31% feel transparency is better, but 30% feel it has got worse, suggesting that agencies still have work to do to ensure clients are happy they are receiving a clear picture of where their budgets are going.
It’s a people business
The media industry remains a business based on human interactions, with 74% of advertisers preferring face-to-face meetings when carrying out media deals, 54% using email and 53% using the phone.
Media channel winners and losers
In the year ahead, mobile is expected to be the big budget winner with almost unanimous support for predictions of growth in mobile ad spend. Social, digital video and search are also expected to see significant expansion, and display is widely tipped for growth, albeit at a slower rate than in mobile. However, almost half of respondents expect investment in TV to remain steady. Event sponsorship and promotions are widely forecast to grow in the year ahead, with 39% of clients, and 36% of agencies, expecting an increase. However, cinema and radio are predicted as the most likely to suffer a decline in the coming year.
Agencies with best awareness
Mindshare, OMD and Universal McCann/UM are the best known agencies amongst advertisers (excluding the agency they currently work with).
Agencies most wanted
Carat, Mindshare, OMD are the three agencies advertisers most want to put on their pitch list (excluding current incumbent).
What advertisers want in a media partner
Strategic planning, good people/management and buying strength are the most important attributes advertisers are looking for.
Mindshare appeared in the top three more than any other agency for the attributes measured and secured top place for the all-important strength of strategic planning and also consumer insight. OMD came next overall and also was seen as the top for people/management and buying strength.
Twenty four per cent of media agency responders state ‘none of the above’ when asked which they would most like to work for next. Does this signal they want to leave the industry?
The international network media agencies included in the survey were: ZenithOptimedia, Mindshare, Mediacom, OMD, Universal McCann/UM, Havas Media International, Initiative, Starcom Mediavest, MEC, Vizeum, Carat, Maxus, PHD.
The second annual International Media Image Survey was conducted by InSites Consulting in May and June 2014 on behalf of BSB Media and the Vision Network in conjunction with the International Advertising Association, Warc, M&M Global, AudienceScience and Loudmouth PR. In total, there were 795 responders, with 486 working in agencies, 189 for a media/tech company, 82 were advertisers and 38 were consultants, academics or otherwise associated with the media industry. See Editors Notes below for full list of the 13 agencies studied in the report, along with additional key findings.