De Groose: media pitch process is "killing brands"

11 Feb 2019  |  David Pidgeon 
De Groose: media pitch process is "killing brands"

De Groose (centre) and Gooding (right)

A focus on price at the expense of strategic thinking in the media pitch process is delivering harmful returns, the former UK CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network has said.

Speaking at the Future of Brands conference (7 Feb), Tracy De Groose, currently the executive chairman of Newsworks, said: "I honestly think the media pitch process is killing brands."

De Groose, who began her career as a marketer before moving to the agency side, said over the last two decades the focus of the pitch had moved gradually away from strategic thinking and effectiveness and more towards price because the latter was easier to measure by procurement departments.

"In the past, price was never a part of the debate," she said. "It was about strategic thinking and asking how we can differentiate. The focus on price is overshadowing everything else."

De Groose said a balance between effectiveness and efficiency must be struck, but it was imperative strategic thinking took a priority.

"Then you ask how much it is going to cost to deliver and if it's going to be good value," she said.

De Groose added that the issue was compounded by the fact it had never been easier to buy cheap media, but that its quality was questionable. This, she said, had led to a general decline in advertising effectiveness over the long term.

Fegent (second from right) and Vinter (right)

Meanwhile, Jan Gooding, a leading marketing boss with experience working with BT, British Gas, Diageo, Unilever and, most recently, Aviva, said in her experience procurement departments had accelerated the squeeze on budgets.

"At Aviva procurement developed an appetite for finding cost savings, and spend on media is cash - so when you come to setting budgets, each year [procurement] wants the same for less," she said.

"Somehow, raiding media budgets seems like the easiest thing to do."

Procurement consultant Tina Fegent said that traditionally media and marketing were higher areas of spend so it was under "heightened interrogation."

"It is therefore important from a procurement point of view to understand what the relevant stakeholders want - is it value, savings, innovation, is it new strategy?"

Fegent added that issues around transparency in the media buying world had also forced procurement teams to more closely question whether a business was receiving good value.

"It's about being fair and effectively measuring the outcome of the pitch process," she said. "And therefore media agencies need to be transparent on their side."

Tracy De Groose added that involving CEOs and procurement teams from the start would also help improve the situation, while Martin Vinter, managing director of consultancy firm Ebiquity, said it was incumbent on consultants in the process to help brands understand what value is and articulate it.

"You must look at the subjectivity of value outside of price," he said.

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