Managing a Media Department

January 1, 2006


This checklist reviews current issues affecting the management of media departments and provides a list of 12 questions to help you evaluate and improve your media program.

As with all businesses, media companies are under pressure to grow and to deliver a profit. Advertisers are seeing the impact of this reflected in having more junior and less well trained media mid-level and senior talent on their business. Additionally, there is the problem of a lack of good internal agency communication between departments and a lack of transferal of communication on the knowledge of your business. This overall lack of communication is the result of the “silo” type organization that exists in media companies.

“Silo” media department organizations are media companies that have specialized buying and planning groups that do not sit together. They report to each other on a dotted versus direct line. “Silo” specialist buying groups for Network Broadcast, Local Broadcast, Print buying, Out-of-Home buying, and “silo” specialist departments for Internet, Sports Marketing, Strategy Account Planning, Direct Response etc. sound great, but they contribute to the communication problems. These specialists know their areas, but may be unfamiliar with your specific issues. This “silo” problem is further complicated by the change in having more options for integrated media and cross over media opportunities. With all of these special areas how can you get strategic creative thinking and testing in your media program? This responsibility is given to the media account executive that heads up your business.

The media account executive (MAE) is the keeper of the communication between all of the silo departments, but they are not as knowledgeable as the specialists. This in turn limits their ability to manage these groups to give you the best results. Media knowledge, personality and agency familiarity are some of the barriers to success. Ideally, your MAE will be versed in all media and will stay on top of all new concepts. Ideally, your MAE will be the stronger personality and be able to get the specialist department to deliver great work on time. Ideally, your MAE will know their agency workings and politics and keep your business involved in all new offerings. But today it is best practice to have a plan on how you are going to manage your media operation and not rely on the MAE to control the success in many of these areas.

Another factor affecting you in managing your media operation is the fact that media is very complex in both the scope of offerings, across different media, as well as the depth of choices within each medium. Media advertising agencies have the resources to keep up with the latest offerings and they are continually trying to improve their service. Also due to the very competitive nature of this business category, they are willing to run your business for a low fee. Agencies can manage the large volume of paper, the detailed media analysis work and constant interaction with media contacts. The media agencies can keep you informed on all new opportunities, and they are able to represent your interests across all media. Your challenge is to make sure that you are getting the best media talent, plans, service and costs.

So what about efficiency? The efficiency issues are blurring with the reality that “mass reach” media is changing in emphasis to “relevant reach” and creating “touch points” with your customers. This new challenge will have many more added value and integrated elements in the media mix; these are not evaluated on a cost per thousand basis. Even the standard media buy may become less efficient because of special research that may direct a unique buy for a product. Efficiency is critical for all brands, but today we need to look at new measures to make sure the efficiencies are delivering your set objectives. Your issue will be to get the media department to focus on these new objectives and new media elements and begin to quantify them for your business.

The media landscape is changing and so is the consumer. There is a need to understand how you can keep the current good work moving forward, and at the same time, prepare and seek out new changes. This answer will be different for every brand, but creating a media operation that is ready for change will be important.

Questions to Achieve a Better Media Organization

Asking these 12 questions is the first step toward managing your most powerful marketing tool: your media program.

1. What is your objective?
Know what you want to accomplish by evaluating your media group.
2. Have you identified your costs and cost savings?
Decide on the most efficient type of organization.
3. How do you avoid over-staffing?
Evaluate the staffing needed to manage your media organization.
4. Do you know how to be a leader?
Identify where and when your leadership is needed.
5. Are you ready to train your media group?
Understand the value of continuously training of your media group.
6. What is the meaning of media efficiency?
Define media efficiency to mean building your business.
7. How can you better control media costs?
Know that you are buying efficiently and controlling cost increases.
8. What are your established performance evaluation guidelines?
Establish your performance guidelines to use in evaluating your media group.
9. Can you make a decision?
Evaluate your ability to have a streamline decision making process.
10. Do you accept cookie cutter forms or demand exhibits tailored to your needs?
Why media exhibits need to be tailored to your needs.
11. How many trees do you want to kill?
Assess the documents you need and the formats for delivery.
12. Is your Personality working for or against you?
How do personal relationships influence your ability to get the best deal?

Managing Your Media Organization. Jane Twyon. ANA: New York, 2006.