Should advertisers pay more to keep agencies inefficient?

With every year that goes by the advertising community continues to look for more and more opportunity to drive down pricing and increase value from agencies. No one can blame them, a whole auditing and procurement business needs to exist and why should good work or good people get in the way of the procurement officer hitting their bonus? 

There is some irony that the companies advertisers use to drive efficiency also create more and more work for agencies through a pitch process to also justify their role. Meeting after meeting, tests, projects, hands on sessions, formal pitch meetings, digital focus, more forms and oh some pricing at the end. It means that agencies continually come under the strain of having to find new opportunities to earn or save money. Their only their options.

In the camp of saving, we talk a lot about making things more efficient. The whole Trading Desk model has been put under that camp, but you know, perhaps we should look to our media channels that have come with the most history. I find myself wondering why we need different TV buying departments in today’s world. We have teams of people in agencies that all do the same thing, give or take, their roles are clearly defined, they all work on the same systems, there could be no finer example of an opportunity to streamline a business. This is not just about my group but all of them. Do we need multiple buying departments by agency?

I think that if we are to keep up with the relentlessness of procurement and pitching we should do a couple of things. First lets re shape the businesses so that there are some key trading people in London but consolidate the buying into single group operations, based somewhere cheaper, where you train people to come and do a 9-5 job, they get paid, they go home having worked bloody hard.(God forbid you even employ people without degrees?)  Would advertisers be happy with that? Could they stomach the fact that agencies do as media owners do and have multiple conflicts and teams all working together across agency silos? Well that I guess is the core of the issue, if they are fine, all well and good, if they are not then they should pay more for making the agency groups run in a less than efficient way.

Second, lets start challenging the advertisers to change their business for the better rather than be lap dogs and respond to whatever they want. ‘I can be whatever you want me to be?’ We should try more along the lines of ‘your business is structured really badly, you want some good advice?’ Consultancy comes cheap in advertising and media, the advertisers should take more advice, it is designed to help on reflecting the changing landscape. I had a refreshing meeting where an advertiser asked me to challenge him more on how he should structure his business for the new world of RTB and Data. How nice it was to have a decent debate on that, and imagine the possibilities. If only there was more of that.

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