Media Buying Briefing: Another report calls for changes to the grueling pitch process

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If one research study didn’t get the message across, two should really do it — the message being that the agency pitch process needs to change irrevocably so as not to break the participants in the process. 

Following Forrester’s Ditch the Pitch report, which Digiday wrote about in a recent Briefing, London-based MediaSense issued its assessment of the very flawed marketer/agency pitch process, citing all manner of factors that have made pitching arduous and almost not worth the effort. 

Focused on global media agencies, MediaSense’s report, Pitch Smart, was helmed by managing director of strategy Ryan Kangisser, who was motivated to conduct it based on the fact that nearly every conversation he’s had with marketers and agencies revealed the biggest struggle is finding and keeping talent. 

But other factors play a role in the need to conduct the process differently, he explained, such as technology’s impact on diluting the differences between agencies, as well as the increased length and complexity of pitching — the latter of which results in less of a payoff when a client is won.

“This perception of clients that they have a divine right where every agency is going to fall over to pitch for their business has clearly changed,” said Kangisser. “Perhaps it’s not as energizing for staff as much or it’s not so central to agency culture [anymore], when for most people who’ve worked in agencies [a long time], that adrenaline rush you got from a pitch was the thing you would look forward to.”

Some of the stats in the study confirm this. When asked if pitches are energizing for staff, only 44% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed, while 35% disagreed or strongly disagreed (21% neither agreed nor disagreed). Similarly, when asked if it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people to work on pitches, 34% disagreed or strongly disagreed, while only 46% agreed or strongly agreed (20% remained neutral).  Perhaps the most damning stat: 86% of respondents agreed the pitch process is excessively time- and cost-exhaustive.

So what does MediaSense recommend? For one, it argues that marketers should stop asking for theoretical planning exercises and quick turnaround work requests, because they place undue stress on the agencies while not accurately reflecting what the agency is capable of. It also stresses reducing virtual meetings in favor of true in-person chemistry-building. Finally, the study encourages marketers to offer clear feedback to the winner — as well as the losers — in a pitch, to encourage transparency. 

“[Give] agencies feedback throughout the process, so that when it gets to the big reveal, the big final presentation, everyone has a very clear chance of being successful,” said Kangisser.

MediaSense plans to conduct a similarly aimed study but from the marketer (aka client) POV, but the lessons from this study apply evenly to client and agency. “Transparency, from a client perspective means [sharing] ‘This is what we look like, this is how ugly we are, this is our organization, this is where our dysfunction is,’” Kangisser added. “Fundamentally, it shows the agency where you’re looking for them to help accelerate transformation. So being really clear about what it is they’re actually looking for from an agency, which then will [empower] the agency to … respond in in a way that’s really aligned to the internal needs of the client.”

As broader-based targeting in programmatic continues, industry reckons with talent gap

Speaking of talent, media agencies spoke about the talent gap that’s been created as broader-based targeting in programmatic continues to grow and agencies work to meet client demand.

Agencies acknowledged at Digiday’s Programmatic Marketing Summit last week that recruiting and retaining specialized talent to handle clients’ diversified channel strategies has, in part, led them to create new training programs and rethink their benefit programs.

CMI Media Group adopted feedback from employees to create a flexible workweek in which employees could take summer Fridays year-long, with an eye toward retaining employees. “It’s listening to them and making sure they are heard and their opinion matters,” Greg Dreifus, svp of programmatic at CMI Media Group, said on May 22 in Palm Springs, California.

Otherwise, leadership has tried to keep employees engaged by encouraging getting together as a team whenever possible, creating on-demand, recorded video sessions for onboarding employees and allowing employees to travel and network.

Depending on client needs, Digitas also brings in external voices to speak to changing industry trends, said Leah Askew, svp and head of precision media at Digitas North America.

“Client funding is getting narrower and we’re spending more money in a workforce that’s expensive and specialized,” said Askew, who added that these specializations could range as client demands change from connected TV to optimization strategies.

Askew and Dreifus both reaffirmed the importance of encouraging their employees to ask questions — with clients and internally in this hybrid working environment. Curiosity among job applicants will often land them a second interview.

Speaking on another panel at the Programmatic Marketing Summit, JiYoung Kim, president of North America at GroupM Nexus, spoke on innovation and the importance of asking questions. “Be that toddler that continues to ask why,” she said.

While previous generations were forced to reckon with tech and data, this new cohort of workers will need to be won over by an industry that’s willing to make room for them.

“It used to be so exciting to be in programmatic and digital and social, search — this used to be cool. And if the thing we’re going to hang our hat on is we can reach millions of people, that’s not exciting,” Kim told Digiday’s senior media editor Tim Peterson. — Sara Jerde

Color by numbers

Nielsen and the Asian American Advertising Federation (3AF) released findings from their first joint Asian language media consumption study — showing that in-language media is the most trusted source of information among Asian Americans. The 2022 study focused on the three top Asian languages in the U.S.: Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. Together these languages represent some 40% of the Asian American population and form the most spoken Asian languages at home. — Antoinette Siu

Some findings:

  • More than 40% of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that Asian media offers programs and perspectives they trust, and more than 50% of respondents from those three language groups said they prefer to buy brands that advertise on programs reflecting their culture.
  • When it comes to media consumption preferences, streaming TV is the most-watched Asian language platform for all groups, compared to broadcast and cable. But radio and social media remain important channels, with 34% of Chinese respondents reporting spending 7+ hours listening per week. Social media is used the most for Vietnamese (59%) compared to other groups.
  • In-language media serves an important role for the Asian community, with most using it for current news — 67% of Korean respondents, 60% of Chinese respondents and 72% of Vietnamese respondents said they pay attention to ads in their preferred language.

Takeoff & landing

  • Omnichannel ad platform Mediaocean will integrate Epsilon’s audience data through a partnership with the Publicis-owned data/martech firm, which has more than 1,000 different audience segments based off of 250 million U.S. consumers. 
  • Horizon Media has agreed to buy, plan and measure some of its clients’ upfront TV deals based off of VideoAmp’s data solutions, cementing the measurement service’s momentum in providing an alternative currency to Nielsen and other TV measurement services. 
  • Personnel moves: Former Media Kitchen CEO Barry Lowenthal joined AI data firm Inuvo as president … Randall Rothenberg and Martin Kristiseter joined the board of directors of performance media firm Digital Remedy. 

Direct quote

“We spend a lot of time interrogating privacy-compliant data to get really granular in identifying our strategic audiences before we ever place a buy. By understanding where these audiences exist at a ZIP code level, we can be very choosy about applying data segments to our targeting. This both saves our clients money and protects us as the cookie pools dwindle and audiences become harder to find.”

— Paul DeJarnatt, vp and head of digital at media agency Novus, discussing targeting and privacy changes this year with Antoinette Siu

Speed reading

  • Both Digiday news editor Seb Joseph and senior ad-tech reporter Ronan Shields offered up distinct takes on the five-year anniversary of GDPR, given the looming importance of privacy regulations in the future.
  • Think Web3 is history? Think again, explains media agency reporter Antoinette Siu, who covered Dentsu’s plan to codify Web3’s usage via its Readiness Index. 
  • And in his latest Future of TV Briefing, senior media editor Tim Peterson asks (and gets some answers to) all the right questions surrounding this year’s upfront marketplace, which will kick into deal-making gear now that all the presentations are over.

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