Business effectiveness is the mantra, not media efficiency

There were many happy media people at last Monday's IPA Effectiveness Awards, and not just Mediaedge:cia, who made history by becoming the first media agency to be crowned Effectiveness Agency of the Year and to win the Grand Prix without having to share it with a creative agency.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox
Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox

We're a generous lot in media, despite being perfectly capable of finding our killer competitive streaks when necessary. All the senior media strategists in the audience seemed to be genuinely delighted for MEC - I guess because it was evidence that media's ambition to grab a seat at the top marketing table is not an impossible dream. Effectiveness is the magic metric that opens boardroom doors and the only one that really matters.

Two years ago, when MediaCom became the first media agency to win the IPA Grand Prix alongside MCBD, there were fewer media agencies investing in serious analytics or econometrics units. Now it is a "must-have" service, and I hope not just one more specialist unit to add to the sponsorship or social media sub-brands.

This discipline has the potential to underpin the entire communications planning process and maybe even solve the sticky remuneration mess most media agencies find themselves in.

The aim of all marketing investment must surely be business effectiveness, not media efficiency. At the moment, we are stuck in no-man's-land, with advertisers and their procurement teams trying to create contracts with both media targets (complete with incentives and penalties) and business targets.

I'm sure they believe they are being clever, having their cake and eating it, but more often than not they end up having their cake and poisoning it. Auditors could do a lot to help here and they have, in fact, stated their desire to make the process of evaluating media performance more about business return than media discounts.

While we're on the subject of return, we urgently need to start defining return on investment as return minus investment (an effectiveness measure), not return divided by investment (an efficiency measure). Otherwise, budgets will continue to shrink and brands will continue to lose market share and profit.

Quite apart from the opportunity to rebuild media agency/advertiser contracts to focus on the outcomes that matter, the major benefit of investing in rigorous econometrics is that agencies will end up with more insightful data on which to plan future activity.

Effectiveness should be the foundation of media planning, not exposure. 

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