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Opinion and Insight

The Evolution of the Modern Media Agent

MEC's Bruce Kiernan on how media agents can properly deliver knowledge, guidance and effectiveness to clients

The Evolution of the Modern Media Agent

We are in a supply-driven market where the skillset necessary for growth has changed, from technologically savvy to a deeper understanding of data and insights.

Today’s marketers have significantly more advanced opportunities to reach consumers, who in turn have greater control over which messages they choose to see and hear. This reality has made our jobs in the media agency world more complicated and, truthfully, I often wonder whether we’ve contributed to this.

The lines of where marketers’ efforts begin and end have become incredibly blurred. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a space where the complexity of technological solutions for marketers has gotten so great that simple learnings are overlooked. Ad tech firms have so thoroughly convinced the marketplace they are the answer, yet it’s hard to distinguish which ones are truly needed. 

Clients are now obligated to inquire about how the current landscape - a much different landscape from the simplified times of reach, frequency and the 30-second TV spot - plays a critical role in the growth of their business. We, as media agents, have an obligation to represent them in this new tech-obsessed and data-saturated market. The idea of a 'media agent' is nothing new, but in a world where data has become our new currency - and consultancies such as Accenture, Deloitte and PwC are encroaching on our territory—it’s critical we start thinking for our clients in a way that brings a new perspective of the connected world to the table. 

Since there’s no going to back to simpler times - nor should there be - I believe the modern media agent should possess three fundamental elements to properly deliver knowledge, guidance and effectiveness to clients: 

1. Data-First Strategist

Our clients’ data and the safety of that data is essential to the type of collaborative, long-term growth we strive for. New-world media agents must treat data as true currency, and demonstrate aptitude for telling stories of value around data as it intersects with technology and infrastructure. 


2. Translator of Market Complexities

Client service doesn’t just exist as a division within an agency business model; it IS our business model. Without the buying power of a demand-driven market, often the purpose and the most fundamental value proposition of an agency is lost. In some cases, agencies act as little more than a clearinghouse to save clients overhead costs.

Thanks to a broad view of our new ecosystem - a data-fuelled, supply-driven market - media agents must intelligently navigate clients towards common business goals, rather than siloed success. But the first question marketers should ask when partnering with advisers is whether or not growth comes from simplification or inflation of marketplace complexities that may or may not exist in practice. To me, we need to simplify the complex - without rendering it valueless.


3. Ability to Think Beyond “Just” Media

While some in our industry are predicting (or advocating) for media and creative to again integrate, there has been a fundamental change in the role of the media agency in driving creative execution. Too often, though, words and throat-clearing headlines seem to be a substitute for action. 

The value of a new-world agent is grounded in experience, not just algorithms. Sitting on the front lines of ad tech innovation, we pore over an endless sea of technology and data to decode a series of insights that drive holistic communications strategies. That’s our job, not the creative departments. 

At the same time, we must never lose an intrinsic part of our value: the human touch, as in relationships with clients and media vendors. Often times it’s the depth of those connections with the people on the other end of the phone or computer that will make them go the extra mile to solve an unforeseen problem or glitch. Let’s never discount that.

As an agency leader, I try to encourage both my people and clients to strive for long-term collaborative growth grounded in traditional agency values with new and innovative ways of working. As long as we come together to unpack the complex, we will win this war against commoditisation – creating differentiation that once again defines the marketer and agency business partnership.


Bruce Kiernan is Practice Lead, Performance Marketing, NA at MEC

Genre: Strategy/Insight