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Threatening the Health of the Outdoor Advertising Agency

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The post below, written by Ed Cox of Yonder Media, really rings personally.  It is one side of a discussion which is taking place throughout the Advertising Industry today.  It is a discussion common in news and opinion in most of the trades . The current Agency model is losing its traditional foothold.  New media planning and buying models are being trialed, built and negotiated.  I believe Cox’s comments may be every word appropriate in and for certain OOH planning and placement services.  The need for real change is a foot in OOH planning and buying as well.

On the same front, with a different solution, one of my long time friends, with over 20 years experience in National Sales with one of the ‘Big 3’, expressed a deep anguish to me at the OOH Conference last month, regarding the losing value brought by OOH buying services.  His conclusion was very simple:  “Buying services are no longer bringing value to the OOH Industry” (billboard owners).  His solution, go direct to client. Here’s the part which makes you sit up in your chair, leaning in, making sure you heard that right: “do not recognize the Agency/Buying Service. No more commissions or fees.”

Strong talk. That’s akin to ‘eliminate with extreme prejudice’ to the ears of many of my OOH Agency friends, many whom I have known for an even longer period of time.

I am not sure where this is going. But we are strapped in and prepared to move forward.

strapped in and prepared to move forward.

Ed Cox says it much more clearly.

Scale and legacy have become a disadvantage for network agencies, according to Ed Cox, who is leading an independent media agency start-up.

A view from Ed Cox, Yonder Media

Accenture Interactive raised a few eyebrows with its prediction that consulting-agencies (or “cagencies” as they’ve been awkwardly coined) will dominate marketing services in the coming years.

It’s clear the agency landscape is set to change, but disruption will come as much from start-ups and small entrepreneurs, as the big consulting and tech firms.

Most vulnerable to disruption are, of course, the players that currently dominate. But as networked media agencies grapple with the need to rebuild trust with their clients and face off the disintermediation by Google, Facebook et al, they lose sight of what clients hired them for in the first place: to communicate meaningfully and effectively with their audiences.

Fundamentally, media planning is not moving as fast as the audiences it’s chasing.

Media consumption habits have radically changed over the last few years, but most media agencies still don’t deliver campaigns that display a deep understanding of the mindset of today’s audience.

Why? Because these agencies have been honed to focus on the channels that make them the most money or are the most convenient to deliver, regardless of the creative route or the audience they are meant to be targeting.

In these instances, scale suddenly becomes a disadvantage.

Legacy structures with large teams that specialize in a single channel are no longer fit for purpose as clients demand more integrated thinking and more generalists on their business rather than a collection of one-channel specialists.

The other barrier to change is the legacy commercial model.

Agencies that make money according to how much or where they spend the client’s budget simply can’t change or adapt fast enough.

The radical restructuring of agency operations that we’ve seen only leads to poorer customer service as clients are shunted from one team to another – and the resulting brain drain compounds the situation.

That’s why, increasingly, clients are seeking out more bespoke approaches, mixing and matching how they use agencies, consultancies and taking more and more in house.

They are fed up with the cookie-cutter solutions and let’s not forget that, trust, once broken, takes a long time to rebuild.

Agencies need to get back to what clients have historically relied on them for – developing a deep understanding of culture and audiences and making marketing communications that cut through.

Media and creative need to come together again, much earlier than they currently do, to deliver audience-centric planning and channel-agnostic execution.

Because of the proliferation of channels and ever-changing audience behaviour, agencies need to embrace diverse talent from outside the world of advertising such as film, music, art and design, TV and publishing.

I’m lucky to be working at an independent media agency that belongs to a wider collective of creative businesses, and it’s that access to talent and unconstrained thinking that clients are asking for.

With independence, comes the freedom to behave differently, to plan and buy media differently, to enter into new types of relationships with clients, and the ability to fit into the diverse operating models that are springing up.

With independence, comes the freedom to behave differently, to plan and buy media differently, to enter into new types of relationships with clients, and the ability to fit into the diverse operating models that are springing up.

Not many agencies have this freedom to adapt and evolve with the times, and it is this lack of freedom, rather than the ascendancy of the consultancies and digital tech giants, that ultimately threatens the health of the agency sector right now.

Ed Cox is the founder of Yonder Media

What are your thoughts on Cox’s comments?  What about my Big 3 pal who wants to eliminate OOH Agency relationships? Leave a reply in the comments below.




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  1. Kristy Vivian says

    Who ever this guy is “National Sales with one of the ‘Big 3’” does not understand that the service that the OOH buying company provides makes it easier on the “client direct” in many cases. I have many many loyal clients who just don’t have the time to meet with every vendor that comes calling or knocking. Sounds like “this guy” is upset that other OOH vendors have the inventory he does not. That is why I switched from being a vendor to a buying service to be able to offer my clients any and all inventory with just one call. This model does not fit every client – but for many, it does.

  2. Rod Collins says

    As an advertising truck vendor with a fleet of ten Dallas and New York City based billboard, glass walled display and now LED advertising trucks, I love getting the call from the national media buyers. They have systems in place to execute all aspects of the programs that are often in multiple cities simultaneously. The national media buyers I have worked with also tend to pay invoices quickly without post campaign discount negotiations for “early payment”.

    It is simple – we go to contract, receive art, post, drive where instructed, provide POP, and get paid. Rod Collins – Bulldog Mobile Billboards and Texas Mobile Advertising

  3. Bill Board says

    Thank you for commenting Kristy Vivian. Interestingly enough he does understand. His ‘position’ regarding OOH Buying Services is a new and 180 degree turn from who he has been for the last 20 years. It is a surprising viewpoint. One I would not have expected to come from him. Where his new POV will be 2 to 3 years from now, will be of great interest and potential game changer, if adopted in greater numbers. Change is afoot for the traditional Ad Agencies. Ed Cox of Yonder Media, post is striking the same cord. Perhaps it may only be a thinning of the herd.

  4. andrea Messimer says

    As long as Agencies, Businesses, Brands, Operators- are willing to evolve and adapt- There will continue to be a place for them.Technology is and will continue to disrupt every industry- along with self serve planning software- making it easier and faster to keep up with the demands and expectations of customers.

    This sums it up – As Ed Cox’s says-
    Fundamentally, media planning is not moving as fast as the audiences it’s chasing-

    One cohesive solution is the answer. ( Walled Gardens are only self serving) it’s enviable that they will be disrupted as well.

  5. Bill Board says

    thank you Ms Messimer. One answer indeed. Good to see you thinking about the best of OOH, even on Sunday. Need more OOH Champions like you.

  6. andrea Messimer says

    Thank you B- Always happy to contribute.- I love the industry. I don’t shut down on Friday and pick it back up on Monday- Weekends allow me time to catch up on all the articles and continue to educate myself on what is around the corner. Today you have to keep up and stay ahead or get passed by! Happy Sunday! 🙂

  7. Bill Board says

    We love your dedication Andrea!

  8. Arun says

    Thanks for sharing informative article, I really like this post.

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