From `audience reached’ to `audience aware’

Publicite MBSAgency Billings: $50 millionTop 10 Clients (in alphabetical order): Avon Canada; CFCF 12; Eaton; Helene Curtis; Hershey Canada; Michelin (Michelin, B.F. Goodrich, Uniroyal); Paramount; Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada; Smith & Nephew; Tilden Rent-a-Car System.In a confidential poll of about...

Publicite MBS

Agency Billings: $50 million

Top 10 Clients (in alphabetical order): Avon Canada; CFCF 12; Eaton; Helene Curtis; Hershey Canada; Michelin (Michelin, B.F. Goodrich, Uniroyal); Paramount; Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada; Smith & Nephew; Tilden Rent-a-Car System.

In a confidential poll of about 200 media sellers, Publicite MBS was voted Best Media Operation in Quebec.

We asked Penny Stevens, vice-president, general manager, at Montreal-based Publicite MBS, to comment on the evolution and importance of the media function.

Q. How far along the road are we to acknowledging the full importance of the media function?

A. If mbs’ billings and industry conversation are any indicators, we have come a long way.

Increasingly, clients’ supplier selection decisions have evolved from deciding on what agency to now deciding on what media company and what creative company.

Clearly, this is in response to the growing belief that the effective planning and deployment of media dollars must be handled by experts.

This is not surprising, in light of the dramatic changes that we have witnessed in the communications industry in the past few years.

That being said, what astonishes me is that there is still a ‘back of the bus’ mentality in some agencies when it comes to acknowledging the value of media.

This manifests itself in ridiculous fee arrangements that inevitably jeopardize the quality of the media product.

Yes, we are far along the road, but we will be a lot further when agencies realize that devaluing the currency is not doing the industry any good.

Q. How will the face of advertising change once the function and influence of media people have been fully realized?

A. The face of advertising is changing now.

It is changing in response to an operating dynamic that, frankly, will leave many supposed ‘media experts’ behind.

The dynamic that I refer to includes the impact of government regulation and deregulation in the creation of ‘new’ media.

The increasing complexity and number of media options is changing media planning into a discipline that crosses over into marketing far more than it has in the past – into merchandising, into promotion, into consumer response dynamics and social studies.

More and different media platforms, coupled with growing consumer and advertiser cynicism about advertising puts an accountability pressure on the media planners to plan beyond ‘audience reached’ to ‘audience aware.’

The data explosion that is miring many [advertisers] demands an operation that can prioritize, interpret and disseminate information quickly.

Knowledge brokers like mbs are essential in this new media world. So what does the face [of advertising] look like?

Sure, full service will exist, but not as we know it today. Full service will increasingly refer to a particular discipline – that is, full-service media and full-service creative.

Full-service media companies like mbs will flourish. We invest in the business of media to give us the tools and pay for the talent that is essential to delivering the best value to our clients.

Q. The term ‘partnership’ is used a lot, but how much has the relationship between buyers and sellers really evolved?

A. I believe the relationship has evolved from a necessary evil to a grudging respect, and, now, quite interestingly, to an enlightened business conversation.

While I would like to believe this is the case in every transaction, I know, in fact, there are exceptions.

These exceptions are unfortunate, primarily because of the disservice that it renders the advertiser.

But, as in all business partnerships, good ones take time, energy and forward-thinking people.

Q. If you had a chance to give one message to your agency partners, what would that be?

A. Media is fast becoming the message.

In the spirit of enlightened business direction, the conversation about media platforms must always be at the beginning of the advertising process and not at the end.

Q. If you had one message to give to the media, what would that be?

A. Thanks, would be the first one. The media has been tremendously supportive in our efforts to deliver great value to our clients.

But, there is a whole other side to that.

I really believe that we can bring more to the media owners than can the clients themselves.

In the past, and, to some extent today, there is a tendency [on the part of the media] to go directly to the clients.

And, I certainly understand that, but what I find worrisome, and this is a warning to the media, is that they perceive they will get a quicker answer [from the client], but what, in fact, may happen is that the client and the media seller will develop a program that is not appropriate, and therefore damage the reputation of advertising at large.

What sellers have to understand, is that we do, in fact, bring value and a very deep understanding of the client’s business to the equation. And, in doing that, we can build business for them, perhaps better than they can if they have a direct conversation with the client.

Now, I am not suggesting that they don’t have those conversations, but I would not want them to think that what they see as a good idea on the face of it, perhaps, is not a good idea at all.

It’s a bit of a red flag, but I am a big believer in relationship-building in a three-way partnership between client, a supplier and an agency.

Which brings us back to this whole notion of an enlightened business conversation.