Media is increasingly being seen as an engine for top-line growth nowadays, and 81% of the 52 global media leaders surveyed believe that media will occupy greater strategic prominence than in the past, according to research by World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) done in conjunction with Ebiquity. While the media function has become more important, marketers globally are still struggling on delivering their media aspirations, and have witnessed capability gaps in areas such as eCommerce and shoppable media.
According to the research, none of the respondents were "very satisfied" with their current capabilities in eCommerce. In fact, many are looking towards diverse sources for inspiration, including online retailers such as Amazon and Alibaba as well as D2C brands. Some of this dissatisfaction may reflect the fact that only 28% of media and marketing teams own the budgets for shoppable media formats.
The advances in digital technology has not solved the age-old question of "what works", as 94% of respondents said media measurement, market mix modelling will be important over the coming years. The deprecation of third-party cookies is also expected to fuel this challenge. At the same time, 91% also pointed out that media transparency is important over the next three to four years. However, only 43% are satisfied with their organisation's current capabillities. The research found that those with ad budgets in excess of US$750 million were more satisfied than those with smaller budgets.
In-housing was also another challenge for 36% of respondents who said in-housing would not make sense for their organisation. Only 11% were very satisfied with their current capabilities with data and technology being a major shortfall. Survey respondents also struggled with managing the challenges of environmental, social and governance agenda, which include areas such as data privacy. According to WFA, these areas are challenging to manage because they need to be considered throughout an increasingly complex supply chain.
Despite these challenges, the research found that new responsibilities are being included within the media remit, with a growing focus on brand safety but also the ethical dimension of media investment. More than simply being tasked with placing investments that deliver a positive ROI for the brand, media leaders now also need to consider whether these are the right choices for the environment, consumers and society at large.
Media leadership is also being treated more strategically. Majority of respondents (75%) predicted that media management will have more decision-making authority than it has done in the past. Respondents also said being "T" shape rather than specialised is crucial to survive in today's day and age. Team sizes are expanding and global teams have increased by about 60% compared to the 2017 survey done around this theme. Meanwhile, 37% of respondents are also reviewing their media model annually or more frequently and a further 33% are doing so every two to three years.
The 52 global media leaders represent advertisers with a total ad spend of more than $40 billion globally. Respondents represented multiple industry sectors including alcohol, automotive, financial services, FMCG, healthcare, luxury and technology. Also, 81% have global responsibility for media, while 17% have responsibility across multiple markets in Europe.
Matt Green, WFA's director, global media services, said the report shines an important light on the discrepancies between where many advertisers say they are versus where they want to be. According to him, it is not surprising to see capacity deficits in areas such as eCommerce, shoppable media and ESG.
"Equally considering the privacy-first transition the digital media industry is going through, which is seeing core functionality eroded, it’s not surprising that measurement presents a capability challenge to media leaders," Green said. According to him, these issues - old and new - require the client-side to adopt new skills and they require renewed collaboration from across the industry.
Meanwhile, Ebiquity's chief client officer, Mark Gay, said the research allows brands to understand the present and quantify the challenges the industry collectively face. "Issues such as the shift in emphasis from efficiency to effectiveness, diversity and responsibility in media models, the ongoing challenges with transparency, agency selection in a remote, agile, and often virtual world, governance of data and management of technology all require the global marketing community to adopt and flex new skills," he added.
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