Why CMOs Should Prioritize Media

Palmisano Steve-HeadshotCommunication and advertising strategy, trade/retail activation and relationships, innovation, packaging, game changing research, managing your boss – these are just a few examples of the strategic issues that command the attention of a CMO.

With so much to focus on, media almost never makes it to the top of list.  It’s perpetually on the “things to do” list a couple of slots below anything you ever get to, in part because CMOs view it as primarily transactional, not strategic.

Despite not giving it top attention, it’s easy to believe your organization has media covered.  You’ve got a first class media agency, your marketing team is well seasoned and has dealt with complex media issues, and while you don’t have internal media personnel, you likely have internal digital marketing experts who you lean on as it relates to digital media.

So, why worry about media?  There are many reasons, so let’s discuss.

First, let’s talk about your agency.  Even though first class, as smart as your agency is, your staffing plan is not a reflection of the agency brain trust.  Agencies no longer do a great job of having their leadership’s core beliefs and principles trickle down to the rank and file.  Said another way, your media agency is likely only as good as your team, and your team is likely only as good as your most senior day to day person.

Even when your day to day lead is very good, they’re usually stretched too thin to regularly take a step back and rethink media strategy or alter the way you should be framing a request for them.  Typically, agencies instill and reward accuracy and responsiveness.  Both are important foundational qualities, but accuracy and responsiveness will not alter the trajectory of your brand.

The reality is, agencies largely do what they are asked to do.  If they have they time, they improve the “ask” around the edges.  They rarely proactively lead you to look at something fundamentally different than you were inclined to do.

Next, let’s look at your marketing teams.  Many of them, I’m sure, are comfortable with media, they’ve worked on advertised brands for much of their careers, they seen lots of media plans developed and implemented.  They believe they know what good looks like, and they certainly know what bad looks like.  But despite the best of intentions, they are not subject matter experts and they are too busy wearing too many hats to really dig deep as it relates to media.

A marketer coming out of a media plan meeting is often running to another meeting to discuss a retail trade program, review a questionnaire for some custom research project, initiate a new packaging exploratory, or to discuss any of dozens of other important activities.  So 10 days later, when the media agency comes back with something that is sound, but not spectacular, and the marketer who has 10 other irons in the fire isn’t thrilled, and still has questions, but has run out of time, what do you think happens?  They settle.

But at least they have internal support on the digital side, we have our digital team to help them, and increasingly, digital is playing a bigger role in plans, right?

Yes and no.  digital is often supported internally, but most client internal teams’ digital marketing expertise is more grounded and skilled in developing digital programs, building digital assets, optimizing CRM or social programs.  They are not media people, so even though they know and understand digital and are very familiar with websites and tactics that you might be evaluating, they do not really understand how to formulate a media analysis or how to make media decisions..

They also typically do not bring a balanced view of what offline does best and what online does best, so within the integrated plan development process, they often play the role of evangelist for digital, which is great if your organization underutilizes digital within your mix.  But they can also sometimes play the role of cheerleader for digital, as they often devalue what offline’s role in a plan could or should be and overvalue that of online.

The surgeon wants to do surgery: the multicultural lead wants more multicultural in the plan, the digital marketer (who is not a digital media person) wants more digital and often the newest shiniest digital toy in the plan.  Yes, they help the brand team sort through some of the digital decisions that are in front of them from the agency.  And maybe they help get some of what the brand team is looking at get on the table, but they are not a true substitute for someone who knows and fully understands all aspects of media such as media strategy, planning and buying, online and offline, general market and multicultural.

Media is likely your company’s largest expenditure after personnel and cost of goods.  While creative is the most elastic part of the advertising/communications equation, you spend most of your money on media.  A great plan can significantly enhance your creative’s ability to drive sales.  Your media efforts should be a competitive advantage, whether that is through superior planning or best in market pricing to purchase your plan or exceptional buy stewardship.  A mediocre media effort that is not superior to your competition is simply a large line item expense.

Make your company’s media a competitive advantage, don’t settle.

Steve Palmisano founded AdElevate in January 2012.  His consulting company leverages his experiences as Sr. VP for Wyeth and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare where he was responsible for U.S. Media and Advertising Services, e-Marketing and International Media.  He has a long history of driving growth behind both dominant and niche brands through smart use of media and digital marketing. AdElevate serves advertisers who recognize the importance of excelling in media but do not have the internal resources in their organization to help them achieve this elusive goal.