Charles Darwin and the evolution of the media skill set

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The needs of client-side marketers have changed dramatically in recent years forcing a rethink of what is required from a media partnership. So what skills do your media people need to be effective now and in the future? Ben Willee explains.

Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” Even though he died in 1882, I’m sure he was talking about today’s media business.

Anyone that’s been working in this industry for more than five minutes will tell you, it’s constantly changing. It’s one of the best parts of the job, but it also creates a host of challenges, especially for advertisers.

The reality is, today’s client-side marketers need something vastly different in a media partnership than what they did just 12 months ago. And that’s not only because of the never- ending impacts of the current COVID situation we find ourselves in.

It’s no longer good enough for media agencies to come to the table with some good deals on media buys after a few boozy lunches with sales reps. That went out the window even before COVID.

Media people today have to wear a host of different hats to truly deliver value to their clients; part scholar, part rough-and-tumble trader and part orchestra conductor (okay maybe that last one is a stretch, but you get my gist).

Today’s media folks must be able to understand so much more than how to drive the Facebook Business Manager or grasp how TV ratings work. They need a head for integrated marketing strategy and a keen sense of what technology and AI can deliver because rustling up an audience is now only half the game.

We all know the improvement in campaign ROI when bottom-of-the-funnel activity is personalised and that’s a result of what is happening in the tech stack. It doesn’t have to be big; it doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to have a considered hypothesis and some smarts about how it can deliver on the client objectives.

The flip side is that people who understand the tech often fall into the trap of thinking that just because something can be measured easily, it’s more effective. And that’s simply not the case. The media people who are prepared for today and tomorrow are the ones that can see past what’s easy and focus on what’s effective. In the right hands, martech is very powerful.

Additionally, media pros need to understand how a Customer Data Platform works, what data it collects, in what form and how it can be used to make campaigns more efficient. They also need to understand how this works in line with the client’s privacy policy. For example, does the policy state data can be shared for marketing purposes?

To be able to ask the right questions to get the best business outcomes, you need someone that can do the thinking. Media people don’t need to know how the clock works but they must be able to tell the time.

That said, don’t fall into the trap of purely focusing on the tech abilities of media people.

Neilsen research suggests creative accounts for up to 47% of ad result variance. It’s ironic since most media people barely give creative a second thought. Media people thinking creative is just a problem for the creative agency is a problem that is now being increasingly exposed. I’m not saying media people should start wearing a beret and poking their noses into the creative process, but it’s smart to have a conversation with a creative agency or a creative person when the campaign is coming together and also when it’s being optimised. It’s for this reason that a move to a full service 2.0 – where media, creative, digital, data and tech are all under the one roof – is gaining momentum.

As budgets continue to tighten, media will be expected to deliver more with less. That’s not new. Managing this in the digital age requires 360-degree strategic awareness and a complex set of skills. For those that are unsure if they have what it takes, organisations such as RMIT Online offer helpful courses to upskill.

If you asked our old mate Charles Darwin, he’d say the ideal media person doesn’t exist yet because they are still evolving and preparing themselves for the change that’s yet to come.

Ben Willee

Over a 20-year career Ben has worked in some of the biggest media agencies in the UK and Australia. As General Manager and Media Director, Ben optimises our fully integrated, no silo approach.